BEIJING, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Can a tofu factory produce masks? Even the owner of the factory would never have imagined such a thing before the novel coronavirus swept China.
"When our factory resumed operation after the Spring Festival holiday, to address the shortage of masks for our employees, we decided to produce them ourselves," said Shen Jianhua, chairman of the Shanghai Tramy Green Food Co., Ltd., a leading soybean food producer in Shanghai.
The food company, with a total of more than 7,000 employees, including production line workers, delivery drivers and marketing staff, would consume at least 10,000 disposable masks per day amid the virus outbreak.
Despite the difficulties, Tramy went all out to speed up its production of masks, not only for its employees but also for meeting the surging demands from across China.
As the mask production project was launched on Feb. 1, the company rented a plant and production facilities from a bankrupt medical equipment company. Thanks to the local government's support, they completed the registration and obtained the license in just three days.
Less than 10 days later, two production lines for masks went into production, with all the workers, equipment and materials in place. The first batch of masks rolled off the production line on Valentine's Day.
Now, the two production lines are operating around the clock, with an initial capacity of 100,000 masks per day.
"We aim to expand the daily capacity to 200,000 by the end of this month and 800,000 by the middle of March," Shen said.
Besides the disposable masks, the company is planning to produce other medical supplies, including disinfection products such as medical alcohol.
Tramy is not alone. More and more enterprises have turned to produce medical supplies in shortage at "China speed" with the aid of governments at all levels across the nation.
It took only one day for the Dishang Group, a manufacturer of apparel and textiles headquartered in Weihai, east China's Shandong Province, to set up a new company to make protective suits.
The group made the decision on Feb. 9 and did not expect that local authorities gave them a vacant 1,500-square-meter plant, which had been carefully selected and cleaned up that afternoon.
Moreover, the local administrative department handed over the new company's business license to them within half an hour and the market regulator also opened up a green channel for the company's registration for medical equipment.
Tang Hongjie, a worker with over 10 years of experience in sewing, came to the workshop immediately after receiving an urgent notice from the company on the morning of Feb. 10, when the construction of the factory was basically completed.
"I'm very proud of my contribution to the prevention and control of the epidemic," she said.
In the following hours, Tang practiced the operation of the hot air seam sealing machine, an important equipment for protective clothing production, together with her colleagues who returned to work as soon as possible. In the afternoon, they finished the first samples of protective suits.
Meanwhile, more machines were urgently brought in from factories all over the country, and the company also recruited some 400 skilled sewing workers, said Zhang Chengyu, deputy general manager of the Dishang Group.
The Weihai municipal bureau of industry and information technology coordinated with the local authorities to provide 15,000 masks and one ton of disinfectant for the company and help the employees return to work amid widespread traffic controls.
"We will produce protective clothing in full gear, regardless of cost," Zhang said.
At present, Dishang produces 10,000 productive suites per day, with eight production lines operating and about 1,000 employees working round the clock. A total of 4,000 protective suits had been sent to the virus-hit Hubei Province.
In a guideline jointly issued by several ministries early this month, Chinese authorities told producers of key medical supplies not to worry about the sale of their products, as any surplus at the end of the epidemic would be purchased by the government as reserves.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday urged related departments to offer coordinated services to encourage further expansion of production capacity of key epidemic-control materials and ensure the orderly resumption of production.
The daily production capacity of masks nationwide may exceed 100 million as additional production lines will become operational soon, according to authorities.
As of Wednesday, over 60 percent of 3,081 industrial enterprises above designated size in Beijing, as well as all the companies producing epidemic-control materials, had resumed operation.
Shanghai rolled out 28 measures on Feb. 7 to cushion companies against the impact of the epidemic. The operation resumption rate of industrial and commercial companies above designated size in Shanghai has exceeded 70 percent.