COVID-19: Impact on the Healthcare Sector

By - Mahima Kainthola

When global pandemic strikes, the healthcare sector is undoubtedly affected the most. As the demand-supply gap of basic materials like testing kits and surgical masks increases at a faster rate, bringing much-needed attention to the supply chain of such products. While production lines of many apparels and textile brands are being diverted to designing masks, other aspects, such as healthcare infrastructure, cannot be modified in the short term. Quarantine and lockdowns help in minimizing the load on healthcare infrastructure as strategic isolation is presently the most practical way to curb the mass spreading of the virus.

covid19 impact on healthcare

Here is an update on the Healthcare Products and Materials around the World:

Disposable Gloves

Primarily used as a protection utility to avoid infection between consumers and service providers, disposable gloves surge in demand is not surprising due to the virus. An increase in the incidence of Coronavirus cases, the need for infection control drives the growth of the global disposable gloves market with risen safety concerns and awareness for hygiene among the population. Besides, the growing number of end-users with advancements in technology is also supplementing the market growth.

On the contrary, the disposable nature of these gloves can pose a potential health hazard due to improper disposal methods. Depending on the material of gloves, the capability to hold the virus is determined. Also, if left or disposed of in public places like parks and pavements, they would come in contact with others and increase the exposure to the virus.

European Union has announced a package worth 93 million euros for Serbia, in order to help the nation to fight the deadly virus. India, who has ample supply of these gloves and has shipped the same to the country.

Mobile Imaging  

Chest radiographs are one of the methods being used to diagnose COVID-19 in several economies, such as Spain, South Korea. Thermal imaging is being adopted extensively to identify people with elevated body temperature, and fever-like symptoms. In addition, thermal imaging cameras are installed in public areas, and imaging equipment is being used in restaurants and hotels before allowing the customers to enter the premises. Around 235 infrared thermometers were donated to Chinese Authorities by Infrared Cameras Inc, in a move to ensure that the country has the essential tools to combat the virus. Infrared technology can be used in a mass screening process to detect fever-like symptoms to identify potential cases of Coronavirus.

Radiology and Nuclear Medicine Department have realized that mobile nuclear medicine can be the standard of care, just like Ultrasound and X-Ray. Therefore, Digirad, has seen a surge of purchases and interest in the Ergo, a portable nuclear medicine imaging system.

Hand Sanitizer  

The makers of Magic Moment Vodka, Radico Kaitan, pivot towards producing hand sanitizers from their usual production with the use of Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA). The rising demand and foreseeable shortage are gearing up many more breweries and distilleries to produce sanitizers. In the US, Pernod Ricard has already produced 1000 gallons of hand sanitizer by March 20. Scotland’s BrewDog has created its own sanitizer “Brewgel” and will be donating to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary intensive care unit. In the last week of March, Dabur India launched its own line of sanitizers, “Dabur Sanitize,” that will be available across E-commerce channels and subsequently in offline retail stores.

Chemical Reagents

The shortage of chemical reagents is one of the key aspects of COVID-19 identification is under considerable strain. The extraction of RNA, which is crucial for determining the presence of the virus, is determined using these reagents. Concerns regarding its supplies are already being felt across the globe. Australia has a variable stock presence where South Australia has more stockpile of the reagent while other jurisdictions are facing supply pressures. The US Drug Association is aware of the problems being faced by the supply system and has taken steps to supply laboratories with reagent alternatives. The limited capacity of pathology laboratories and the supply issues is another cause of concern in the time of the pandemic.

Polymerase Chain Reaction Device

Globally, nearly all COVID-19 tests are currently done on a polymerase chain reaction device. As a lot of countries gear up to confront Stage 3 of COVID-19 infections, the number of tests will scale dramatically. At such a junction, the world’s first handheld, battery-operated real-time PCR device called TrueNat will play a crucial role. Created by MolBio diagnostics, TrueNat is perhaps the only field test for screening available anywhere today. It is the fastest method used in public places to test the virus that gives results in an hour. Once MolBio’s new kits are validated and approved by regulators, the device will be available to screen for COVID-19.

Conclusion

Healthcare leaders across the world are in pure survival mode at this point. COVID-19 has surged the need for medical equipment and other medical essentials. The shortage of personal protective equipment like masks and gowns is being dealt with new entrants from other industries, expanding their scope of production. Companies operating in the textile, manufacturing sectors are now assisting in the production of masks to balance the demand. For instance, Foxconn, an iPhone manufacturer based in China, has now set up a production unit to manufacture surgical masks. On the other hand, hospitals have stepped up on precautionary measures taken to ensure containment of the virus and avoid the spread within their premise. The sector is focused on two prime aspects – manufacturing and infrastructure with the aim to increase speed and capacity towards the growing needs of today, which will supplement the capabilities of healthcare products and technology for tomorrow.