The year 2020 has everybody wishing for a forward button- or rewind. But more importantly it could serve as a reminder to humanity to take kindness up a notch.
According to a recent quarterly report released by the International Trade Centre (ITC), the world’s supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is highly concentrated in five countries; China, United States, Germany, Malaysia and Vietnam. These five countries alone make up nearly two thirds of the global PPE exports, with China in the lead. As reported by ITC, in 2018, China alone had exported 46 percent of the world PPE exports.
As known widely, Covid-19 first originated in China in late last year so it is but natural that the demand exceeded supply in China causing non fulfillment of orders of medical supplies. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as a pandemic a month later when it had already spread to several other countries; Thailand, the US, Iran, Italy, Spain, etc.
Soon after, the EU, Turkey and Switzerland introduced a licensing and permission scheme “to protect the availability of supplies of PPE, by requiring that exports of such equipment outside of the European Union are subject to an export authorisation by Member States”. More countries eventually followed, putting 75 percent of the world supply into question as they banned or restricted exports related to PPE.
Now, a lot of the least developed countries (LDCs) rely on these exporting countries to provide close to 75 percent of their PPE requirements. With their health sector already incapable to deal with a pandemic, non availability of basic protective gear for the health providers speaks havoc for them.
The Director General of WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus rightly said that it “requires all of us working together to ensure all countries can protect the people who protect the rest of us”. It is now more than ever that trade is of the essence, especially for medical supplies. With the infection spreading globally, gear to fight the virus is also required globally- more so in countries that rely on the imports of such.
But that is not to say that one relies solely on provision from other sources. It is also time to innovate and create. (Read Trials, tribulations and opportunities, April 3, 2020) At least until such time that the virus is controlled.