| 23.10.2020

Travel restrictions are effective stopping the virus, but also disrupt medical supply chains

Fresh results published by a research project led by Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki show that travel restrictions are one of the most effective methods to stop the spreading of Covid-19. Travel bans have however, also resulted in serious disruptions in the transportation of medical supplies.

A comparison between 33 countries shows that during the first virus outbreak in the spring, the most effective interventions to lower the mortality rate in Covid-19 was to cancel public events, control international travel and close workplaces. While effectively stopping the spread of the virus, especially the travel bans also caused disruptions to the transportation of medical supplies like personal protective equipment, testing equipment and equipment needed in the care of hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

– Many countries depend on passenger airline traffic for imports of medical supplies. As the passenger planes stayed on the ground, also air cargo stopped moving. Almost all medical protective equipment used in Europe is imported from China or India. The magnitude of the problems the pandemic caused for medical supply chains, surprised even us in the research community, says Gyöngyi Kovács, professor in humanitarian logistics at Hanken.

The report also identifies other challenges causing gaps in medical supply chains worldwide. These include for example supply chain disruptions as the demand for medical equipment suddenly rose, uncontrolled price hikes of both equipment and transportation, and also fraud like falsifying quality certificates.

– One of the recommendations we present in our report is to develop a system for international pre-positioned inventories of medical supplies. There are some promising international initiatives for systems where participating countries could lend and borrow stock between each other. This would minimise the costs for keeping and maintaining stock. The corona pandemic has once and for all shown that not even a well-prepared country like Finland can manage alone in a pandemic, says Kovács.

The goal of the HERoS (Health Emergency Response in Interconnected Systems) research project is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the response to the Covid-19 outbreak. The results from the first phase of the project will be presented in an international webinar on Tuesday 27. October at 12.00-13.00 (CET). In order to participate, please register on the project website. You will also find the full reports on the website.

Mora information:

Gyöngyi Kovács
Professor in humanitarian logistics
Hanken School of Economics
e-mail: gyongyi.kovacs@hanken.fi