India Bans Export of COVID-19 Related Products
[Thursday, March 26, 2020]
The Indian government took several measures to protect its population from COVID-19, among them a ban of export of any products needed to manage the pandemic such as masks, PPE, ventilators, and chloroquine. The export ban for selected items by the Indian government is designed to prevent price gauging and to assure that sufficient supplies are available locally. Last week also saw the US relaxing or suspending its import rules to import the same products but since India is a major producer and exporter of these, it seems the US would have to look elsewhere to get its supplies. The measures by the two governments show the dynamics of the inter-connected world where suppliers and buyers live across the globe and in events that affect both need to take self-protective measures. A few weeks back there were rumors of President Trump trying to get exclusivity for a vaccine being manufactured by a German company for the US. There have been similar rumors of countries planning to hoard supplies, tests, therapies and vaccines for their populations before making the excess available for export. This is a world where pollical powers to be, need to think first for the people they represent, and then for the people in other countries. The pandemic will shift the dynamics of the international supply chains, so common in the medical product industry, for good. This also points to the limitations of the regulators in one country, say the US FDA, to influence supplies from other countries simply by relaxing the rules. The pandemic could be seen as a drill to test the disaster management plans for any country where local measures can only go so far. The COVID-19 pandemic is relatively less lethal than say a disaster caused by an Ebola outbreak. If we were so ill-prepared for a coronavirus pandemic, it is scary to imagine what would a more lethal pandemic do. The event also points out to the dependence of the entire world on the suppliers located in a few countries. China and India have become the producers of practically all major common use products for the rest of the world. This may need to shift. At least countries need to build disaster management stockpiles and release those in times of disaster in a timely fashion. We saw two models; one where countries like South Korea and Japan, were well prepared early on, took rapid actions, and quickly contained the pandemic, limiting the loss of life and business; and second countries like Italy, the US and UK, that ignored early warnings, were slow in responding, which literally compounded the pandemic causing extensive loss of life and economy. Now they are trying to play catch-up. Let’s hope we learn from this and be better prepared for the next pandemic because it is only a matter of time before it happens again.