Swedish hygiene group Essity starts making surgical masks
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Initial capacity 3 million surgical masks/month
From August, capacity will be up to 30 million/month
Initiative follows on query from Swedish government
Soaring global demand for protective gear due to COVID-19
Essity has strong demand for its regular products
STOCKHOLM, April 8 (Reuters) - Swedish hygiene products company Essity AB ESSITYb.ST said on Wednesday it had started production of surgical face masks that are considered a moderate barrier against the spread of viruses such as the novel coronavirus.
Chief Executive Magnus Groth told a news conference a test machine at a factory in western Sweden had a monthly production capacity of 3 million surgical masks of the 2R protection level.
"Then from August we will install a new machine that will be able to produce up to 30 million masks per month and that should be able to cover well more than Sweden's needs," he said.
The initiative comes after a query from the Swedish government two weeks ago. Groth said Essity also planned to start producing masks in other countries.
The rival to Procter & Gamble Co PG.N and Kimberly-Clark Corp KMB.N will deliver the first 2 million masks to the Swedish healthcare system, and will not charge for half of them.
Essity, the world's second-biggest maker of consumer tissue such as toilet paper and handkerchiefs and market leader in incontinence products and hygiene products for businesses, has already boosted output of its regular products to meet soaring demand.
It is joining a string of companies from industries around the globe in starting to produce protective equipment, or having suppliers do so, to meet soaring demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm Editing by Jane Merriman and Matthew Lewis)