By the end of April, millions of surgical masks will be made at factories around the Netherlands, according to Trouw. Starting in Alkmaar and Deventer, masks will be coming off Dutch production lines to counteract the current serious shortages of proper masks in hospitals and nursing homes.
Two production lines are set up at the filter company AFPRO in Alkmaar, which has received an order of three million masks from the ministry of health. Two production lines are to be rolled out at the bed manufacturer Auping in Deventer, who are set to produce four million masks.
The production will get underway swiftly and by the end of the month, they will build up to producing 500.000 surgical masks per day. Brainport industries in Eindhoven is playing a managing role in the process.
Professional-grade masks urgently needed in the Netherlands
This urgent action is being taken because personal protective equipment has been in very short supply ever since the outbreak of coronavirus. Since coronavirus spreads very quickly through the air, the masks are the most vital piece of equipment needing immediate mass production.
Out of necessity, masks are currently being re-used repeatedly while some healthcare professionals have no masks at all, such as in certain nursing homes and other care facilities. Some people are making their own masks, but there is no comparison between these and professional-grade surgical masks with high-quality filters.
Joost Verlan, director of AFPRO said: "Everyone knows someone who works in healthcare and does not have a mask, so we thought: shouldn't we produce them here?"
A united effort
Not only are companies like AFPRO and Auping coming to the aid of health workers by producing masks, but Dutch manufacturers of all kinds are pitching in, in a united effort to help each other out in the many different stages of producing the masks.
For instance, a machine for producing masks will have to be transported from China. For this, the Dutch microchip manufacturer ASML has secured enough space in their cargo plane to allow for the machine to get to the Netherlands quickly and safely.
Similarly, chemical giant DSM has an important role in the process by securing high-quality filter materials for the masks, to ensure that the virus does not penetrate. Such materials are not usually produced in the Netherlands.
The machine manufacturer Durflex in Elst has been prototyping machines that are similar to the one being flown in from China, which are soon to be ready for production.
Assembling, inspecting and scaling production
The next few weeks are dedicated to assembling machines and inspecting the first masks to ensure they pass the quality standards. Then production will scale up and the masks will be produced by the millions.
If this succeeds, the Netherlands will be self-sufficient in producing masks, apart from a small few raw materials that are still going to be imported for their production.