PPE is clothing and equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or spread of infection. Key PPE items - including N95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, and goggles - are essential for healthcare workers. Most of the raw materials and inputs used to produce PPE are outsourced to low-cost suppliers. Production of these items often requires imports of raw materials such as cotton fibre, polyester, and polyamide produced by different manufacturers around the world. These are process by protective clothing manufacturers for sales to end users.
The global market for PPE in the health sector was estimated to be worth $2.5 million in 2018. Gloves have the highest share of sales revenue at 25%, followed by suits or coveralls at 22%. Face masks and hats came in third with a share of 14%. By region the US has the largest market share (33%), followed by Asia and the Pacific (28%), and Europe (22%) in 2018 (source: Mordor Intelligence 2020).
The greatest concentration of mask production is in the People's Republic of China (PRC), reportedly accounting for half the global production capacity. Some sources indicate it could be as much as 80%. For gloves that comply with WHO standards, the distribution of manufacturing capacity is more diverse. Although the PRC produces significant amount of gloves, the greatest production capacities are in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Small production capacities are scattered across various countries such as the Philippines and Turkey. Any increase in production capacity is estimated to be between 20% and 40% with a ramp-up period of about 3-4 months. In many smaller countries, however, quality assurance standards do not meet WHO technical specifications.