The number of new COVID-19 cases globally continues to increase exponentially. For context, it took 63 days from the start of the outbreak to reach the first 500,000 confirmed cases. Since hitting that figure, it has taken just seven days for that to double to one million confirmed cases.
This has created an enormous global surge in demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and many other products, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says is 100 times higher than normal. An unprecedented level we have not seen before.
As a result, many countries worldwide have locked down their borders and governments are requisitioning any stocks of PPE and other products, such as hand sanitisers, to control the situation in their respective countries.
Now that China is recovering from the virus, it is one of the very few countries to have reopened its borders for the movement of goods, and with demand seriously outstripping supply, we have witnessed a significant monopoly reaction on the global supply chain of PPE.
This is driving extortionate cost increases, where in some cases the cost has increased eight times its normal value, and the rising cost of PPE has hit headlines over recent weeks, however the bigger issue is availability.
As soon as other manufacturing countries, such as Malaysia and Thailand, are able to increase manufacturing levels again and the availability of these products increases, we should see prices drop back down to near normal levels.
Another factor that is impacting the supply chain currently is transportation. The factory shutdowns in China – considering it is the world’s largest exporter – seriously disrupted the rhythm of the global movement of ships and containers and has led to space shortages in some countries and container shortages in others.
This is having a major impact on supply chains with hugely increased lead times. While there are alternative shipping methods such as air freight, there simply isn’t the capacity to handle the volume and prices are rising with demand.
But the problem isn’t just in the Far East, we are now seeing disruption in UK and Europe-based suppliers and manufacturers. For example, some suppliers are not classed as ‘essential’ and have temporarily ceased trading creating product shortages, in some factories specialist production line workers have self-isolated creating staff shortages, and a worker testing positive for COVID-19 causes a whole factory to stop for a number of days for deep cleaning.
These are real life scenarios that we are facing on a daily basis and whilst some of them are big challenges to overcome, our procurement team is doing a fantastic job in seeking all the possible options to maintain our stock levels and ensure we can continue to help care homes deliver the best possible care in this evolving world.
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