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Pharma units in Sikkim affected by COVID-19, production slashed by 25-30 per cent

Presently, the State has approximately 48 pharma units and around 10 pharma units have been declared as active containment zones by the local authorities

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The rising number of positive coronavirus cases in Sikkim has led to a decline in pharma production of around 25-30 per cent. The industry has cited concerns over this issue and sought support from the state government.

With an aim to restart full-fledged production activities in the state, recently, the industry stakeholders discussed the issue in detail with government officials in the State.

Presently, the State has approximately 48 pharma units and it has been recorded that around 10 pharma units have been declared as active containment zones by the local authorities as coronavirus positive cases have been found I these areas.

The State underwent a complete lockdown from July 21 to August 1, which was lifted with strict guidelines on August 2, 2020. As per the latest guidelines for restarting manufacturing activities in the state, the authority has allowed a staff strength of maximum 50 per cent, which is also affecting production adversely, inform industry insiders.

Reportedly, all major pharma units in the State like Alkem Laboratories, Lupin, Zydus, Macleods Pharma, Cipla, Sun Pharma etc., have reported positive COVID-19 cases.

As pharma production activities in Sikkim have been adversely affected, Mankind Pharma has already shifted its chronic ailments related medicines production to their Paonta Sahib facility in Himachal Pradesh.

Arjun Juneja, Director, Mankind Pharma said, “The world is witnessing the COVID–19 pandemic crisis and it is a necessity to have an uninterrupted supply of medicines in the country. Considering the rise in positive COVID-19 cases in the State, which is significantly affecting overall pharma production, we shifted it to our Paonta Sahib facility. This move is to ensure uninterrupted supplies of those medicines manufactured from our Sikkim facility. With this change, we have increased the production capacity of the Paonta Sahib unit by 15-20 per cent.”

Juneja further informed that although the company has shifted production activities of some medicines to another facility understanding the need for uninterrupted supply, operations at the Sikkim plant continues with allowed manpower strength.  He said, “Going forward, once Sikkim resumes full-fledged operations without any interruption, we will move back the production activities.”

Suresh Pareek, Managing Director, Ideal Cures, said, “The surge in positive COVID-19 cases in Sikkim has impacted pharma production which is likely to cause short supply of medicines in the country. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the state is also witnessing disturbance in the pharma supply chain. Although, we are receiving the orders from pharma companies, due to supply chain disruptions in the state, we are facing difficulties in delivering orders.”

He added, “We have made accommodation arrangements for our staff in the adjacent village to our facility. However, due to strict local guidelines and other socio-cultural aspects, the staff are also facing problems in reaching the facility.”

Explaining the situation from the authorities’ perspective with an example, Raj Yadav, District Collector, Gangtok said, “Till yesterday, Sun Pharma’s Unit I was under the containment zone, which is now allowed to resume the operation with a maximum strength of 50 per cent. However, today, its Unit II has reported 11 positive COVID-19 cases, due to which the said unit is also registered as an active containment zone.”

Divulging details about the guidelines for the industries along with stipulated measures instructed by the state government authorities, Yadav said, “The pharma industry has made a representation highlighting hampered pharma production activities due to COVID-19 and strict guidelines. However, as per new guidelines, companies can resume production activities after 72 hours, adhering with the recommend sanitation activities of the containment declared premises by the civil authorities. Besides this, we are also allowing movement containment zones to the pharma units provided they (pharma companies) set up quarantine facility within the premises and also make arrangements for transportation, sanitation etc.”

Elaborating on the timeline required for allowing the companies to resume operations after finding COVID-19 positive cases within the premises of the facility, he explained, “In the given time frame, the objective is to trace and report primary and secondary suspects who must have come in the contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. In the case of any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, the companies can keep them in their quarantine facility for 17 days or present COVID-19 test report as negative, then they will be allowed to continue the production.”

Another senior official admitted that the State doesn’t have a robust healthcare infrastructure. Presently, there are only two multispecialty hospitals in Sikkim i.e., Manipal Hospital and the other one is a government hospital. The official informed that to avail more healthcare facilities, one as to go to Siliguri which is 120 km away from Gangtok. Considering the hilly terrain, it is becoming a challenging task, especially during the pandemic.”

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