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Apr 07 2020

Businesses Unite in Fight against Covid-19

In the UK and across the world, there is a critical shortage of equipment needed to help the fight against the Covid-19 outbreak and numerous businesses have united in filling the gaps. Initiatives include the design and manufacture of much-needed ventilators, providing free accommodation to front line medical staff, 3D printing vital personal protective equipment, new factories to manufacture hand sanitisers, and more. Here are some of the fantastic contributions so many are making to help with the crisis.  

The VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium

The fight against Covid-19 is critically dependent on the availability of medical ventilators, and we don’t have enough of them. While there are questions to be asked regarding how this situation was permitted to happen, more important than playing blame games is fixing the problem, and that is precisely what the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium intends to do.

The consortium includes the following organisations: Airbus, BAE Systems, Ford Motor Company, GKN Aerospace, High-Value Manufacturing Catapult, Inspiration Healthcare Group, Meggitt, Penlon, Renishaw, Rolls-Royce, Siemens Healthineers and Siemens UK, Smiths Group, Thales, Ultra Electronics, Unilever, Haas F1, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull Racing, Racing Point, Renault Sport Racing, and Williams, and is chaired by Dick Elsy, the CEO of High-Value Manufacturing Catapult.

To say these are some of the most innovative organisation in the UK would be an understatement. Never in peacetime has there been such a concentration of talent all set on one goal; making ventilators to save lives. At the time of writing, they had already received orders for 10,000 units.

Dyson to produce 15,000 ventilators

In a separate initiative, Dyson is set to make 15,000 CoVent ventilators. This is a bed-mounted mains and battery-powered ventilator that can be used in field hospitals. Ten thousand of these are earmarked for the NHS and 5,000 will be exported to other countries where ventilators are in short supply.

Dyson designed and made the prototype within ten days of being contacted by the UK government. The company switched production lines and now hopes to have the first models in hospitals within weeks.

Tourism industry initiatives

The travel industry is feeling some of the grim economic impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak, but that hasn’t stopped many members from doing what they can to contribute. Tourism may have ground to a halt, but that means there are many empty beds in hotels. Several operators are making these free to use by medical staff who wish to avoid the possibility of passing the virus on to their families and need somewhere to rest their head after their harrowing twelve-hour shifts on the front line.

Similar initiatives are in place across the world. In New York, the Four Seasons Hotel is also housing doctors, nurses and other medical staff for free, and hotels owned by footballers Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville are making upwards of 150 beds available to medics. Roman Abramovich has followed suit with The Millennium Hotel at Chelsea Football Club. 

In Spain, where hotel wards are overbrimming, several hotel chains are housing Covid-19 patients, and several cruise lines have offered various governments worldwide to convert their cruise ships into temporary hospitals. Airbnb is providing free and subsidised accommodation across the world for 100,000 medics and Covid-19 responders.

Numerous restaurants are preparing and delivering free food to healthcare workers. Jetblue is using its freed up capacity to shuttle medical volunteers to New York, and Delta Airlines is providing similar services.

Personal protective equipment

In many places, there is a dire need for more personal protective equipment for medical staff, responders and carers. Across the world, there are numerous initiatives to design and produce these using 3D printing. Stratasys, a 3D printer manufacturer in the US, is aiming to print 5,000 face disposable and renewable shields using numerous printers they have previously supplied to customers. Also, in the US, 3D Systems has released a ready-to-print face shield data file that can be downloaded and printed.

In Italy CRP Technology is 3D printing critical PPE components and, in the UK, a crowdfunding initiative has been launched to fund 3D PPE printing projects. Over 100,000 3D printed masks have already been ordered.

Fashion retailers are also heling with PPE. Prada, Armani, Zara, Yves Saint Laurent and other fashion houses are mass-producing surgical face masks.

Hand sanitisers

In the UK there is a massive shortage of hand sanitisers. To fill the gap, Billionaire Sir James Ratcliffe, supposedly the third richest man in the UK, is building two sanitiser factories within ten days through his chemical company Ineos. One factory is located in Manchester and the other in Germany. The plan is to produce one million bottles of sanitiser a month, supplying the NHS for free.  

As part of the initiative, various breweries and distilleries are producing alcohol for sanitisers while the craft beer business BrewDog is manufacturing its hand sanitiser called BrewGel; it will be provided free of charge to local charities and the community.

Wartime legislation to force companies to help out

Despite the massive effort by businesses across the world to contribute to the fight against Covid-19, in the US Donald Trump has revived the Defence Production Act which can be used to compel companies to manufacture specific products. The Act has now been used to force General Motors(GM)  to produce ventilators, but even before then, GM had already announced that it was working with medical supplies businesses to do just that.

What of the future?

This is a wartime effort from retailers and manufacturers in many sectors. Ventilators, masks, berths on cruise ships, and free hotels are just some of the contributions. Others are following. No doubt we will emerge into a different world once this is over. Let’s hope we will not forget the lessons we will have learned and that the spirit of cooperations continues. We need to be better prepared for the next time, should ever there be one.

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