Almost two months into the lockdown, the government recently eased some restrictions on the exports of woven masks.
The move follows a long term demand of the textile industry. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade in a circular published recently allowed the export of non-medical and non-surgical masks made of woven cloth such as silk, wool and cotton, as well as knitted ones. All other types of masks under the Indian Trade Clarification based on Harmonised System of Coding will continue to remain prohibited.
On January 31,the government had banned the exports of all categories of PPEs in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic but lifted the ban on February 8, inviting widespread criticism from the Opposition. The textile ministry said that it did so after it was assured by the industry of adequate supply of 2-ply and 3-ply surgical masks at reasonable prices.
The ban on exports was re-imposed on March 19. The three kinds of masks made in India are differentiated by melt blown fabric, which ministry officials defined as a “critical component”. N95 and N99 masks, which are used by health-workers and Covid patients in hospitals, as well as two and three-plymasks used in surgeries are non-woven and made of melt blown fabrics.
Days before the lockdown was announced on March 24, key government officials in a meeting helmed by the textiles secretary on March 18 pegged the shortage of 10.5 lakh N95 masks and 10 lakh masks. Since then India has reached the capacity to produce 2 lakh N95 masks daily.