Let Medical Supply Chain Thrive To Defeat Covid-19

Let Medical Supply Chain Thrive To Defeat Covid-19

Rahul Jain, Partner, Tulips Hygiene

Medical supplies are required in huge numbers across the globe because of the coronavirus pandemic that has infected nearly 10 million people and killed about 500000 globally, according to the estimates by the Johns Hopkins University. Significantly, open collaboration and cooperation are vital in tackling COVID-19 pandemic. As the world wages the war against the virus, every nation needs the same life-saving medical supplies. Hence, we must shun parochial thinking and approaches that jeopardize access for all.

With the pandemic cutting across the borders, taming the novel coronavirus needs collective efforts by all nations. Global collaboration and trade exchange across geographies and among nations is vital. Be it VTM kits, testing Swabs, protective gears, or vaccines - the critical supply chain among the ecosystem holds the key to defeat the virus and unlock the economy. And governments, manufacturers, suppliers, R&D labs, and academia must work together.

In such unprecedented situations it is natural for any nation to secure supplies of essentials first for home. For instance, India put export curbs on SWABS, diagnostic kits & VTM Kits from 10th June onwards. While such a move is intended to contain the COVID-19 crisis at a country level since these products are needed for wider testing, it’s time to remove such restrictions on products like Swabs, which are now being produced on large scale. As per industry sources, the Swab production is more than 5 times the requirement of the country and has sufficient surplus, to cater to the needs of many more nations. The industry has submitted its representation to the DGFT and ready to give an undertaking that it will export only the surplus production, after fulfilling India’s requirement. Significantly, such export restrictions create roadblocks for the MSMEs to catalyse the PM’s noble Make-in-India vision. To drive the next wave of growth, Atma Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) must fulfil the global demand, especially post the anti-China sentiments throughout the world.

It’s important to note that a parochial response could derail the larger cause, disrupt lifeline of essential medical supply chains. We must focus on improving access, availability, and affordability of key medical supplies like swabs to boost patient outcomes and serve the common goals. By far, this is the time for visionary statesmanship.

All nations must refrain from restricting the export of essential medical supplies. It is really vital, and cooperation is the only way to fight COVID-19. For sure, as the world needs a healthy recovery, we cannot afford to transgress the economy backward as it would kill productivity.

If every nation starts looking inward and becomes self-centred, global medical supply chains could get disrupted and humanity would suffer the most, delaying the potential win against the deadly virus. Dismantling global production, it will make our world vulnerable. Open trade during times like this is the only imperative that would make all nations survive, thrive, and more safe and secure. The exchange of goods across borders holds the key to global prosperity.

"Response to the global health and economic crisis, calls for open trade policies to stimulate collaborative innovation of medical products, spur local job creation, and steer economic growth. Restricting export of essential supplies will only help the virus win. Boosting accessibility of swabs holds the key to defeat the virus"

The export restriction of products like key COVID-19 testing Swabs creates imbalances during these critical times and doesn’t help, disrupting supply chains of testing tools. It’s important to take care of the local population, but if the nation has a surplus production of essential medical supplies, it is in their larger-interest to share it across the globe, anywhere it is needed. A policy of hoarding for local needs leaves other countries short.

Nations must refrain from putting restrictions on exporting medical supplies. This is vital as isolation will not help us fight the coronavirus that is challenging our existence. An insular attitude anywhere will be self-damaging. What we need is open collaboration, collective responsibility and partnership across the entire innovation ecosystem to defeat the virus.

Export restrictions are counterproductive. An isolated emergency could be damaging in a global crisis disrupting supply chains, killing production, and deprive critical products from where they are most needed. It also prompts other government to reciprocate the measures. It is in the larger human interest to ease cross-border COVID-19 related medical supplies curbing customs-clearance processes, making licensing seamless and approval simplification.

We need to protect the global supply chains under threat from the pandemic. To do it effectively, we need to transcend beyond national responses to mitigate the crisis and safeguard the integrity of vital supplies. To succeed and thrive, humanity has only option, a systematic, comprehensive, and synergistic global approach, rooted in collaboration. 

From smallpox to Ebola, global collaboration in science has been a major success, leading to path-breaking innovation we could not have imagined if countries had done it alone.With over 140 experimental coronavirus treatments under development worldwide, and many in clinical trials stages, the innovation engine seems to be working well during the pandemic.

Some of the measures the nations can explore to save lives include abolishing tariffs on medical supplies, reject export bans on medical supplies, reduce customs processes, enable free flow of health data across borders, maintain transparency in collecting & sharing epidemiological data, and increase cooperation with other countries to accelerate innovation.

Such actions are welcome as they save lives and livelihoods. Facilitating exports of key medical items like drugs, protective gear, ventilators, VTM Kits, and Swabs are vital in the present context. Response to the global health and economic crisis, calls for open trade policies to stimulate competitive pricing of medical products, spur local job creation, and steer economic growth. It will be in the larger interest for nations to lift any exporting restrictions on medical supplies and desist from new import, export, and investment restrictions to fight COVID-19.

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