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Covid-19 update Thursday 2nd April

Virus news in depth


3M continues to ramp up production and speed supply of N95 respirators - Supply chain quarterly says that 3M is continuing all out efforts to speed up manufacturing and distribution of respirators, aiming to produce 50m per month in the US alone by June. In a statement Tuesday, 3M CEO Mike Roman outlined steps the company is taking to increase production of the vital respirators as well as address wider supply chain issues, including delivery and pricing. Roman said 3M plans to double its capacity over the next 12 months to produce 2 billion respirators globally per year, adding that some of the additional capacity will come online in the next 60 to 90 days. The increase follows a doubling of the company's global output in January to a level of 1.1 billion per year, or 100 million per month. Despite such efforts, Roman says demand for respirators is higher than the industry's ability to deliver, and that 3M and others are working to address new ways to protect healthcare workers, including working with sterilization companies to find ways for hospitals to safely clean, reuse, and extend the life of N95 respirators. The company is also working to boost production of its powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs), which are highly specialized and designed for "the most demanding healthcare environments," Roman said. Challenges extend beyond supply and delivery to pricing, with industry-wide reports of counterfeiting and price gouging. A recent market forecast for PPE products estimates that prices for some items have increased as much as 10 times due to shortages and demand surges. Roman said in his statement that 3M has not raised its prices for respirators and is taking steps to fight both counterfeiting and price gouging.

China forced to lockdown recently reopened counties after new infections - Bloomberg says that a county in central China has been put under lockdown again after a flare-up in coronavirus cases, pointing to the difficulty of sustaining outbreak containment in the face of carriers who show no signs of sickness. Jia county, whose population numbers around 640,000, issued a directive on Wednesday asking all residential compounds to be sealed off and those visiting and leaving homes to produce identity cards, wear masks and submit to temperature checks. Car traffic will also be limited. (Personal note: Reuters is reporting the same thing).

Weather forecast accuracy is deteriorating due to grounded planes - Airlive.net has a piece explaining that planes automatically report weather conditions around them as they fly. With so many now grounded, this valuable data set has been temporarily lost. Without this precious data, predicting the weather during the week is much more difficult. A similar problem happened in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in Iceland causing a block of air traffic across much of Northern Europe and North America.

A scandal seems to be erupting in the UK over insufficient testing - Senior political journalists from both left and right wing sources seem (to me) to be aligning against the UK government over Covid-19 testing. Robert Peston (political editor for ITV, a major TV station) reports that whilst Michael Gove (senior UK cabinet minister) says tests can’t be produced due to a lack of reagants, the Chemical Industries Association (which represents the UK's very substantial chemicals industry) say they can easily ramp up production if asked - but they haven’t been asked to. Labour MP’s in opposition are querying this (example tweet) whilst the UK Huffington Post political editor reports that just 1.6% of NHS workers have been tested for the virus. Meanwhile, the Telegraph (which is a strong broadsheet supporter of Tory governments) has put the minister from yesterday’s daily Q&A on the front page with the headline “Questions without answers”. (Personal note: For context, CNN in its daily blog reports that The organisation’s medical director Paul Cosford told Sky News that the UK is testing nearly 15,000 people a day and aims to reach 175,000 a week by the middle of April but in contrast, Germany leading virologist Christian Drosten says his country is already testing 500,000 a week).

There is also confusion in the UK over how many ventilators we have - Robert Jenrick (a cabinet minister) told Sky News there were 12,000. Less than an hour later he told BBC news there were 8,000. Separately the Guardian is reporting on today’s live blog that an unnamed major NHS hospital almost ran out of oxygen for its Covid-19 patients on ventilators because it was treating so many people with the disease who needed help to breathe.

Virus news in brief


People infected with the novel coronavirus can transmit the infection one-to-three days before symptoms start to appear, according to a study published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (Jakarta Post link). The study looked at 243 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, reported in Singapore between January 23 to March 16 and identified seven "clusters" where pre-symptomatic transmission was likely.

Turkmenistan has banned its media (considered the least free in the world) from using the word “coronavirus”. NPR has more, including the fact that plainclothes police officers are also arresting people who wear face masks or discuss the pandemic in public.

Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic have all made masks obligatory in public spaces and the Czech zeal for the new practice is such that when a group of nudists gathered at a lake during last weekend's unusually warm weather, police ordered them to cover up -- their mouths (link).

An Australian private hospital company has made 800 staff redundant (putting 8,000 beds at 34 private hospitals across Australia at risk) after the federal government cancelled elective surgeries in response to the COVID-19 spread - 9News reports that Chinese billionaire Liu Dian Bo bought Healthe Care for $900 million AUD in 2015. Now, the company, which 9News understands was already facing financial pressure, is putting the heat on federal and state government for help. "We have received no firm proposals," the company's letter to staff said. "Regrettably, this has driven us to these immediate actions." Other private hospitals are threatening to follow suit.

UK: A man has been jailed for stealing PPE from ambulance and assaulting a NHS security guard near a London hospital (link)

The Wimbledon tennis tournament has become the latest major sport event to be cancelled (link).

English premier league footballer clubs have been accused of living in a "moral vacuum", with players urged to take their share of the financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic as non-playing staff begin to feel the pinch (link). Players at Barcelona have taken a 70 percent pay cut during Spain's state of emergency and will make additional contributions to ensure other employees receive full wages. The squad of Italian champions Juventus, including Cristiano Ronaldo, have agreed to have their wages stopped for four months while players at German giants Bayern Munich accepted a 20 percent pay cut.

Personal data protection is a (very) thorny subject in privacy-loving Germany, but the country is nevertheless considering using a smartphone app to help manage the spread of the new coronavirus. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel -- who often refers to her youth in surveillance-ridden communist East Germany -- said Wednesday that if it turns out to be a helpful way of tracking the spread of the virus "I would... of course be willing to use it for myself". (Personal note: they are so hot on their privacy that you can force Google to blur pictures of your home on streetview, so this is a really big deal socially for Germany). Link

It turns out you can’t run from a global pandemic says Bloomberg - here’s an article from a Hong Konger who fled the outbreak and flew to Dallas only to find it soon caught up to her.

A Canadian couple who tried to flee to the remote Yukon village of Old Crow also found out you can’t run from a pandemic - when Old Crow residents asked the man and woman what had brought them to town, they were shocked by the response: The pair had driven across the country to Whitehorse and then flown to Old Crow to seek refuge from the coronavirus pandemic — a journey inspired by a dream. Town leaders isolated the couple for two days before putting them back on a plane to Whitehorse, where they remain in self-isolation. “They perceived our community as a life raft from COVID-19,” Dana Tizya-Tramm, chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, told the Star. In the Arctic community of roughly 280 people, Old Crow has only one nursing station and a doctor who flies in once every couple of months; they can’t risk the chance of a coronavirus outbreak.

The Pentagon is sourcing 100,000 body bags (link). American deaths are estimated (at this time) to eventually be around 200,000.

The US Navy aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt has been mostly evacuated due to the virus (link) - it’s currently moored in Guam. A skeleton crew will left onboard to run critical systems. If crew members are required to quarantine for 14 days, on a rotational basis, the Roosevelt could be out of duty for weeks.

The New York State unemployment office typically gets 50,000 calls a week. Last week, it got almost 8 million says Business Insider.

US students who defied coronavirus warnings to keep partying on Florida beaches during their spring break have been crowned the year's "most foolish" Americans in a new survey -- tied with President Donald Trump (link).

Facing calls to declare a coronavirus state of emergency, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was flamed on social media on Thursday for instead offering people free cloth masks, pointing to growing frustration for some over his handling of the crisis. "If your family has more than two people, what are you supposed to do - fight over them?" posted user Yosuke. (Link)

Hong Kong authorities are warning more business closures could soon result - with beauty parlours likely to be next says the SCMP (link).

A lack of tourists in Thailand may cause elephants involved in tourism to go hungry (link).

Chinese police officers from two different forces clashed with each other and members of the public on Friday in a dispute over the reopening of a provincial border, following weeks of lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19. According to local government reports, the incident happened on the 1st Yangtze River Bridge that separates Huangmei county in Hubei – the province at the epicentre of the initial coronavirus outbreak – with the city of Jiujiang in Jiangxi. Several police vehicles were overturned (link). Poor communication from local governments is being blamed.

The Chinese city of Shenzhen has banned the eating of dogs and cats as part of a wider clampdown on the wildlife trade since the emergence of the new coronavirus (Bangkok Post)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned the country's inhabitants in a TV message that anyone caught violating coronavirus lockdown measures would be shot. "My orders to the police and military ... if there is trouble and there's an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead," he said. "Is that understood? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I will bury you." (Deutsche World link)

Supply chain news in depth


Manila terminal chief pleads with owners to collect cargo as reefers pile up - Loadstar is reporting that The Philippines gateway of Manila has emerged as a new hot spot of reefer container congestion, as carriers stop unloading at the port. In a message to customers, MSC said that there were now no available reefer plugs at the port as haulage collections of import containers had been hampered by a city-wide lockdown set to run until mid-April at the earliest. The port’s two container terminal operators are ICTSI and Asian Terminals, and in a letter last week to carriers, forwarders and shippers, ICTSI executive vice president Christian Gonzalez outlined the extent of the problem: “Unfortunately, we have now come to a point where it is becoming impossible to operate in an efficient manner”...”“Those who are able must please clear and remove your containers immediately,” he wrote. In response, CMA CGM (major container ship operating company) yesterday slapped a $1,400 per reefer port congestion surcharge on shipments to Manila and Subic Bay ports (Personal note: that’s a very high fee, CMA CGM is not messing around), and urged shippers whose cargo had arrived at Manila to arrange to pick it up “as soon as possible to avoid accumulating demurrage fees”. Rival MSC said it had now reached a point where it was applying a ‘suspension of carriage’ clause and would have to unload reefer containers at other ports – it will advise shippers and their forwarders “where your container(s) may be collected”.

MSC offers storage in terminal yards to help prevent import congestion at ports - In a related article, Loadstar also reports that as consumer demand in Europe and North America drops off a cliff, fears have grown among logistics operators of an impending container congestion crisis at import destinations as shipments arranged before widespread social lockdowns have continued towards their destinations. In response, MSC has introduced a suspension of transit (SOT) programme to help shippers and their freight service providers prevent container exports out of Asia building up at ports, by offering terminal yard storage capacity. The line has secured capacity at some of its terminals at six ports – Bremerhaven in Germany, Busan in South Korea, King Abdullah Port in Saudi Arabia, Lome in Togo, Rodman PSA Panama International in Panama and Tekirdag Asyaport in Turkey. Its customers can store laden containers there until port operations at import terminals are able to resume processing them. NB: Splash247 has the same story (link).

Australian dockers' union in quarantine dispute over Chinese box ship - Loadstar reports that citing coronavirus concerns, dockworkers in Melbourne have refused to unload a containership carrying “critical medical supplies” from China, despite the vessel being cleared for entry by the Australian Border Force. Cosco’s 5,668 teu Xin Da Lian left Shanghai on 17 March and called Kaohsiung, Taiwan on 19 March, before arriving at DP World’s Melbourne terminal yesterday. Under current rules in Australia, this was permitted as the call was after the 14-day quarantine period for ships’ crew leaving mainland China – none of them had left the ship in Taiwan, meaning they qualified for having been “at sea” for 14 days. However, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) claimed the call was in breach of quarantine and its members refused to unload the vessel “on safety grounds”. DP World said the ship was carrying critical imports, such as medical supplies, and the MUA’s safety concerns were unfounded. “The directions are very clear and we don’t make the rules, these are defined by Australian Border Force,” said Andrew Adam, chief operating officer.

Airlines feel pressure to maintain minimum level of domestic service - Freightwaves has an interesting piece on why airlines still need to fly despite a collapse in demand for passengers. Reasons include moving medical staff and cargo around, maintaining pilots certification to fly (they need to have a minimum amount of hours over a given time) and in the case of the US airlines, part of the $2 trillion bailout included support for them and they need to abide by its stipulations to get the financial aid. There’s more in the article for anyone interested including requirements for air traffic control tower manning but an article in theaircurrent.com is scathing about the need to fly empty airlines in the US to meet the government bailout requirements.

Supply chain news in brief


- Aircargo volumes are continuing to plummet worldwide says the Loadstar. YoY (Year on year, i.e. comparison vs this time last year) volumes are down 48%. Tradelane drops vary; Asia - Europe is least affected, Europe to North America is the worst affected but there are a few outliers; Hong Kong to Europe is above pre-CNY levels (CNY = Chinese New Year).

The UK’s East Midlands Airport (EMA) has revealed that in the week following the UK government’s imposement of social distancing measures (March 16), the number of cargo aircraft movements at EMA increased by 10%. Then, during the two weeks leading to March 29, cargo aircraft movements at EMA increased by an average of 7.4% per day.

AirCargoNews has made its April edition free to read for all. You can read it if interested here.

The government of Dubai has announced a cash injection into Emirates airline to help it survive the grounding period (airlive.net)

Ocean services continuing to deteriorate; Freightwaves says that not only are “blank” (canceled) container-ship sailings surging spiking from 45 to 120 in the past three days — but schedule reliability for non-canceled sailings is poised to deteriorate. According to Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan Murphy, February reliability fell to 65.1%, “the lowest recorded global score since Sea-Intelligence introduced the score in 2011.”

Canada: Auto parts and paint company Uni Select furloughs half of its 6,000 employees - Supply pro reports that auto parts and paint company Uni Select has furloughed half of its 6,000 employees in Canada, the US and the UK. Most of the rest are on reduced operating hours.

How supply chains are adapting - Supply chain movement has an article co authored by Ralf W. Seifert (Professor of Operations Management at IMD) about the impacts of the virus on supply chains, what they’re doing to mitigate the bullwhip disruption and even opportunities that are available for some going forward. If you’re a student or new to supply chain, this will likely be of interest (link).

Good news / Humour section


A Russian Air Force Antonov An-124 carrying medical equipment has landed in New York JFK - Defense one reports that an AN-124 (the largest military plane in the world) has landed at New York JFK. Russian state media said the plane was carrying “60 tons of medical equipment, ventilators, masks & other protection gear.” The shipment to New York — the state with the most coronavirus cases — followed a Monday call between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We sincerely thank you for all of the assistance you’re bringing in,” a New York air traffic controller said shortly before the plane, an Antonov An-124 landed. “You’re welcome and thanks,” the pilot responded. Critics of Trump have accused him of walking into a propaganda bonanza.

The SanLucar group and its closest partners are taking action to support European truck drivers in the development of their daily work - Loadstar says that SanLucar and its closest partners (which between them are major producers of fruit and vegetables across four continents) nd have started to distribute an individual parcel of food, drink and fresh fruit, available to these professionals in the loading and unloading platforms that the company has in Spain, Germany and Austria. “At SanLucar, we know that truckers are facing new challenges these days, enduring long queues at border crossings or the absence of open bars and restaurants along the way. And even so, they continue to strive, aware of how crucial the work they do is. They are our anonymous heroes”, explains Stephan Rötzer, founder and owner of the SanLucar group.

Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose while inventing coronavirus device - The Guardian is reporting (Link) that an Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak. Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at a Melbourne university, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night. The 27 year-old astrophysicist, who studies pulsars and gravitational waves, said he was trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation with the four powerful neodymium magnets.

Donations


Several asked if they can send me $/£/€ via Patreon (in some cases because I've saved them time or money, others for no reason at all). I don't need the cash (that's lovely though) but food bank charities are getting really hit hard with all this panic buying. Please consider giving whatever you'd have given me to a foodbank charity instead:
UK: https://www.trusselltrust.org/
France: https://www.banquealimentaire.org/
Germany: https://www.tafel.de/
Netherlands: https://www.voedselbankennederland.nl/steun-ons/steun-voedselbank-donatie/
Italy: https://www.bancoalimentare.it/it/node/1
Spain: https://www.fesbal.org/
Australia: https://www.foodbank.org.au/
Canada: https://www.foodbankscanada.ca/
USA: https://www.feedingamerica.org/
Thanks in advance for any donations you give. If there's foodbank charities in your country and it's not listed above, please suggest it and I will include it going forward.

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