News Releases

UWI drives national effort to manufacture ventilators, other medical equipment for COVID-19 response

For Release Upon Receipt - April 11, 2020

St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Trinidad and Tobago – As staff, students and alumni of The UWI St. Augustine continue to be involved in different facets of the national effort against COVID-19, a team from the Faculty of Engineering has embarked on a project to locally manufacture medical equipment to protect the public, as well as health workers.

Campus Principal, Professor Brian Copeland, challenged the team of engineers to come up with a way to produce items in short supply internationally, starting with “UWI-vent” ventilator system to assist those with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), face shields, n95 face masks for medical professionals as well as face masks for the general public.

The project is a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Health, the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA), local manufacturers, CARIRI, members of the business community and even individuals. However, there is still much more to be done and much greater participation from industry, business and the public is required.

“We believe that not only is this effort necessary to mitigate the very real danger of lives lost to COVID-19 if ever or whenever there is  a lack of essential medical equipment,” said Professor Copeland, “but also it is a chance for the people of Trinidad and Tobago to take an active stance in the fight against this pandemic and the protection of our citizens and medical personnel.” 

The initiative was started in early March by Mr Jeevan Persad, Senior Engineering Technician in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (DECE) within UWI St Augustine’s Faculty of Engineering. He was motivated by the potential danger of medical equipment shortages if the pandemic were to expand beyond Trinidad and Tobago’s capacity to safely address. Such shortages are currently taking place in the countries hit hardest by COVID-19.  

“We realised that we have to start building our manufacturing base now, before it becomes a crisis,” said Persad. “We were being proactive, not reactive.” 

In mid-March, Professor Copeland directed Persad and his team of six engineers to ascertain the potential risks and needs, and to develop medical equipment, and the necessary linkages to locally source materials and manufacture the equipment.

UWI’s initial role is to design and build efficient and safe medical equipment. Many available designs for items such as ventilators are not only inadequate for our local needs but also potentially dangerous.  

“At present we are working with Doctor Anthony Parkinson, Director of the NWRHA, Dr Gervais Rocke of POS General, and Dr Reisha Seebaransingh and Dr Keevan Singh of San Fernando General to ensure the quality, workability and safety of the designs and equipment,” said Persad. “We are working with the TTMA to ensure that any items that are manufactured also adhere to standards of quality and safety - particularly during a pandemic of this nature. In addition, through the kind assistance of Miguel Andrews and the staff at CARIRI, we are testing materials such as plastics and textiles to ensure their quality for the use in face guards and masks.”

Apart from designing equipment, the UWI team is also making the necessary connections required to create what is essentially a new manufacturing sector in a very short space of time.

Professor Copeland said: “This cannot succeed without the support of the business community, engineers, scientists, the industrial sector and government. Companies such as Label House, Advanced Foam, Ace Printery, Lensyl Products, Daisy’s Exclusive, TYE Manufacturing, MIC, Peake Technologies Ltd., Thermoplas, Electrosign Ltd. and V&S Pharmaceuticals have stepped up and shown their national pride and social conscience. Individuals such as Mr. Gregory Aboud, Ms. Wendy Fitzwilliam and Mrs. Angela Hordatt have done so as well. However, we need much more support.”

The UWI team needs funding, local manufacturers, and materials such as plastics, textiles and mechanical components. They are requesting the support of the national community in sourcing these resources. Persad says the energy sector in particular may have materials and components for equipment like ventilators. 

For more information on how to assist, please contact UWI St Augustine at Additional information on giving financial contributions will also be available soon on the campus’s COVID-19 website at 


About The UWI

For more than 70 years The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has provided service and leadership to the Caribbean region and wider world. The UWI evolved from a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948 to an internationally respected, regional university with near 50,000 students across five campuses: Cave Hill in Barbados; Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda; Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago; and an Open Campus. Times Higher Education has ranked The UWI among the top 1,258 universities in world for 2019, and the 40 best universities in its Latin America Rankings for 2018 and 2019. The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists. 

As part of its robust globalization agenda, The UWI has established partnering centres with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, and Africa including the State University of New York (SUNY)-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development; the Canada-Caribbean Studies Institute with Brock University; the Strategic Alliance for Hemispheric Development with Universidad de los Andes (UNIANDES); The UWI-China Institute of Information Technology, the University of Lagos (UNILAG)-UWI Institute of African and Diaspora Studies and the Institute for Global African Affairs with the University of Johannesburg (UJ). The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science & Technology, Social Sciences and Sport. As the region’s premier research academy, The UWI’s foremost objective is driving the growth and development of the regional economy. For more, visit

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of “The”)