The manufacturing units of pharmaceuticals and medical devices are working only up to 20-30 per cent of their capacity due to the national lockdown on account of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Government of India has said.

“If production does not reach the pre-lockdown level soon, it could lead to shortage of drugs and medical devices in the country,” it informed the Union Home Ministry in a communication.

The letter assumes significance in the wake of on-going debate on the need to extend the national lockdown beyond April 15 as requested by some States to the Centre. The Odisha government has extended the lockdown up to April 30.

Bring back truck drivers

Non-availability of transport and logistics services, lack of courier services, reverse migration of contractual workers to their native places, absence of a significant number of staff in pharma and devices manufacturing units, among others, have led to low production, according to the department.

“Pharma companies should be allowed to ferry back contractual workers from their native places,” the letter said.

Stating that many drivers had left their trucks on the roads and returned to their native places, the department requested the home ministry to permit drivers to travel back to their vehicles and start operations.

“A driver in the possession of a commercial vehicle licence should be allowed to travel with or without his vehicle. His driving licence should be treated as pass,” it suggested.

Citing police harassment, lack of food, water and diesel on the roads as reasons for unwillingness of drivers to function, the phama department said there is an ‘urgent’ need to motivate the drivers to resume work and reach their vehicles to start the supply chain.

To ensure the movement of medical products and devices, courier services should also be restored fully, not only in metros but also in tier-I and tier-II cities.

As about 50 per cent of the drugs being produced in the country are being exported at more attractive returns, there could be imbalance between domestic supply and exports, leading to shortage in the country, and hence the measures suggested should be implemented on a priority basis, the Department of Pharmaceuticals said.