Governments Across the World Race to Buy Medical Equipment in order to Respond to COVID-19’s Increasing Reach

By Gabriel Diaz, Associate Editor 

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization designated coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a global pandemic. With nearly 700,000 confirmed cases and 34,000 deaths globally COVID-19 has quickly become the only topic of conversation. Cities around the world are almost completely deserted as measures to tackle the pandemic continue. Governments have halted flights, locked down towns and urged people to stay at home.

Healthcare professionals internationally on the other hand are not given the same advice. Medical workers and first responders are on the frontline fighting against the global pandemic. Some of which are doing so without the luxury of proper equipment and safeguards to protect themselves against the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) in early March, warned of a shortage of protective equipment that would hamper the response to the outbreak.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom estimated that each month, about 89 million medical masks, 76 million examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles will be required globally for health care workers to adequately respond to the outbreak. This does not include the millions of ventilators, resuscitators and other machines that are also at an extreme deficit worldwide. Shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other front-line health care workers dangerously ill-equipped and forcing governments to spend big in order to try and combat the issue.

As the coronavirus outbreak rattles the global economy and disrupts supply chains, global commerce for medical equipment increases to combat the lack of supplies.

Planes in the Czech republic landed from China early last week, with 1.9 million face masks and 100,000 respirators. The Czech Republic wants to spend over three billion crowns on the purchase of health equipment to battle the coronavirus outbreak ($1 = 25.629 crowns).

A German based medical supply company Draegerwerk, said that the German government placed an order for 10,000 ventilators, the medical gear maker’s largest order ever and equivalent to a normal year of production.

Italy on the other hand, who have been one of the hardest hit countries tendered for 5,000 ventilators and other desperately needed medical equipment. Privately owned Hamilton Medical, a Swiss company which usually makes 15,000 ventilators a year, has ramped up its production by 30-40% in order to meet the demand from countries globally.

A hospital-grade ventilator is a costly machine running between $25,000 and $50,000 each, illuminating the costs countries are willing to spend to try and hinder the virus.

In New York, an aircraft landed carrying 80 tons of gloves, masks, gowns and other medical supplies from Shanghai, China, which is reported to be the first of 22 scheduled flights. The plane delivered 130,000 N95 masks, 1.8 million face masks and gowns, 10 million gloves and thousands of thermometers for distribution.

Even still, the United States is urging foreign countries to ramp up production of masks, ventilators, and other coronavirus items and is seeking to buy any quantities they can spare. Due to a historic surge in patients seeking care for COVID-19, President Trump stated that the U.S. is willing to explore a mutually beneficial exchange of other materials to address COVID-19 related supplies that we have in excess.

The overwhelming demand has set off a race among foreign countries, American officials at all levels of government, and private individuals to acquire protective gear, ventilators and other much-needed goods from China. Most global commerce has come to definitive stand still, while on the other hand medical supply companies are churning out supplies in order to meet the global demand.

 

References:

Joshua Berlinger, WHO warns of global medical equipment shortage as world braces for coronavirus spread, CNN (March 4, 2020) available at https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/asia/novel-coronavirus-covid-19-intl-hnk/index

Megan L. Ranney, Valerie Griffeth, and Ashish K. Jha, Critical Supply Shortages: The Need for Ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment during the Covid-19 Pandemic, THE NEW. ENG. J. of MED. (March 25, 2020) available athttps://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006141

Josh Lederman, U.S. diplomats urging nations to ramp up PPE production, seeking to buy supplies, NBC, (March 25, 2020) available at https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/u-s-diplomats-urging-nations-ramp-ppe-production-seeking-buy-n1168421

World Health Organization, Corona Virus Disease COVID-19) Outbreak; Rights, Roles, and Responsibilities of Health Workers, Including Key Considerations for Occupational Safety and Health, WHO (March 4, 2020) available at https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/who-rights-roles-respon-hw-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=bcabd401_0

The NY Times, Coronavirus Outbreak Deepens Its Toll on Global Business, NY TIMES, (Feb. 21, 2020) available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/21/business/coronavirus-global-business.html

John Miller, Germany, Italy rush to buy life-saving ventilators as manufacturers warn of shortages, REUTERS (MARCH 13, 2020) available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-draegerwerk-ventil/germany-italy-rush-to-buy-life-saving-ventilators-as-manufacturers-warn-of-shortages-idUSKBN210362

Ana Swanson, White House Airlifts Medical Supplies From China in Coronavirus Fight, NY TIMES (March 29, 2020) available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/29/business/economy/coronavirus-china-supplies.html

CTK National News Wire, Another aircraft from China brings coronavirus equipment, LEXIS (March 24, 2020) available at https://advance.lexis.com/document/?pdmfid=1000516&crid=ffcf2f35-189a-405f-a0d6-b0f52ad57885&pdactivityid=2f08122d-8357-481b-8cf4-366b857bbb99&pdtargetclientid=-None-&ecomp=9f__k

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