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Kill The Virus, Not Medical Supplies

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With the COVID-19 virus opening multiple fronts across the world, it’s not prudent for the nations to think inward-only approach. For instance, COVID-19 Swabs that are integral to wide-scale testing, and contain the pandemic, should be available to all nations, says Rahul Jain, Partner, Tulips (Suparshva Swabs)

As the coronavirus keeps surging ahead with a dangerous number of cases, the only way is to weed it out is to boost testing, test more and testing all across the world.

For instance, COVID-19 Swabs that are integral to wide-scale testing, and contain the pandemic, should be available to all nations. More so as the pandemic requires global containments to mitigate this unprecedented health, economic, and social crisis. The pandemic also poses an existential crisis to the human race, if not dealt with together.

In such unprecedented situations, it is much likely that any country would want to secure the supplies of essentials first for home.  For instance, India put export curbs on SWABS, diagnostic kits & VTM Kits from 10th June onwards. While such moves are aimed at dealing with the COVID-19 crisis at the national level since these products are required for testing of patients, it’s high time that such restrictions are removed at least on SWABS, which are now being produced on large scale. 

According to industry sources, the Swab production is more than 4- 5 times the requirement of the country and has sufficient surplus, to cater to the needs of many more countries. The industry has submitted a representation to the DGFT and is ready to give an undertaking that it will export only the surplus production, after fulfilling India’s requirement. Such export restrictions also create roadblocks for the MSMEs to catalyse the PM’s Make-in-India vision. To drive and thrive the next wave of growth, Atma Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) must fulfil the global demand, especially after the anti-China sentiments throughout the world.

Though the national leaders are rightly concerned about providing for their own nations first in terms of medical supplies, such restrictions lead to inefficient distribution of essential items diluting the fight against COVID-19, when available freely. It deprives people of key requirements and innovations, because prices go up for everyone, and poorer nations can get cut off from crucial technology.

Besides, all nations are not fortunate to have a national producer of key medical supplies nor do they have the technology readiness to rapidly make such products. Export curbs and hoarding can lead to reductions in production, product scarcity, and price increases. For instance, in the ventilator market, just seven countries account for 70 per cent of total exports. Assuming only one producer imposes an export ban, the prices would go up by 10 per cent globally.

If countries stop letting medical supplies leave their borders that could effectively be denied a life-saving innovation to literally billions of people. Lack of international cooperation and trade restrictions could seriously undermine our efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected about 9.6 million people around the world and killed 490,000.

Global bodies like WHO, IMF, and WTO should nurture open cooperation to maintain the ‘vital lifeline’ without which we cannot win the war. This is time to act together for saving lives across the world. A parochial response cannot be the answer to an international crisis.

To flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to prevent healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed.  It is vital to keep our supply resilient with supplies and mitigate the impact on COVID-19 patients. Lack of transparency about restrictions and failure to collaborate could thwart efforts to contain the pandemic and a new wave of coronavirus.

National hoarding of medical supplies kills the global response to COVID-19. By interfering with well-established medical supply chains, such measures risk hampering the urgent supply response. By far, medical emergencies for a pandemic must dwell on a global response strategy and not on trade restrictions. The choice is ours, and the time to act is now to defeat the virus.

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