Workers prepare protective suits to be donated to hospitals, amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a tailor’s in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 29, 2020. Image: Image: Reuters/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Reta Riana was shocked when she discovered how Indonesian medical staff were forced to wear raincoats as makeshift protective wear, so she decided to use her sewing skills to make suits for hospital staff tackling coronavirus cases.

Before the coronavirus outbreak struck her country, Riana used to make women’s dresses including traditional Indonesian kebaya, but as the outbreak spread she wanted to do something. 

“I love to help but I didn’t know what I could do since I’m not a medical staff working on the frontline,” she said. 

She learned on social media how medical staff faced a shortage of protective suits. 

“I was thinking that I can work with other tailors to help to make protective suits, donors can bring the raw material here, I will make and provide them for free,” she said. 

Riana, 35, consulted health professionals on the best material to use so it was comfortable and water resistant for medical staff who have also been forced to wear plastic bags used for medical waste to protect themselves. 

   “That’s the situation now, so I think the material I have is much better than other options,” she said, adding she had taken on more workers to boost production of the protective suits, which cost around 200,000 rupiah ($12) each. 

President Joko Widodo said this week health workers needed 30 million protective suits to last until the end of May.

Indonesia has confirmed 1,528 coronavirus infections and 136 deaths, but medical experts are concerned about much higher numbers of undetected cases as more medical staff also become victims of the disease. 

“I hope this will be over soon…so we can wind up the operation of producing protective suits and return to our usual production,” Riana said.

Reuters | JAKARTA

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