Chinese firms race to supply life-saving ventilators as global demand surges
People's Daily Online
By He Leijing, Cheng Lu, Zhu Xiao and Qin Huajiang (Xinhua) 09:56, April 04, 2020
Analytics firm GlobalData predicted that about 880,000 more ventilators are in demand globally amid the pandemic. Ventilator manufacturers across the world are running full-steam to meet the surging demand. China, one of the largest ventilator producers, has joined the global fight against COVID-19.
Chinese ventilator makers are working around the clock to bolster supplies of the life-saving machine as global demand skyrockets due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hospitals around the world have faced a surge of patients with breathing difficulties from the coronavirus, which is sparking a global hunt for ventilators, a kind of medical devices that pump oxygen into the lungs and are essential to save the lives of the sickest.
Analytics firm GlobalData predicted that about 880,000 more ventilators are in demand globally amid the pandemic, with the United States reporting a gap of 75,000 ventilators, while France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain are collectively short of 74,000.
Ventilator manufacturers across the world are running full-steam to meet the surging demand. China, one of the largest ventilator producers, has joined the global fight against COVID-19 by ramping up its production of the life-saving machines.
China has 21 invasive ventilator makers and eight of them have obtained the European Union's compulsory CE marking, according to Xu Kemin, an official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
"Chinese manufacturers have received orders for about 20,000 ventilators from other countries and have swung into full gear to meet the surging demand in foreign market," Xu said at a press conference on Monday.
IN FULL SWING
In a factory in Yanjiao, a town near Beijing inside the border of north China's Hebei Province, workers are busy testing, assembling and packing ventilators to catch up to the backlogs, making sure the devices can be delivered overseas as soon as possible.
"From production to shipment, we dare not to waste any minute. More than 500 workers have returned to their jobs and are toiling day and night," said Li Kai, assistant to the chairman of Beijing Aeonmed Co., Ltd., an anesthesia and respiratory medical equipment enterprise.
The company, which previously could produce thousands of ventilators a year, has recently seen overseas orders surge. It has received orders for over 1,000 ventilators from international organizations and foreign countries including Italy, Britain and Russia, and is ramping up efforts to lift the output.
"We have not taken even one day off since late January, and have already manufactured and delivered hundreds of ventilators to overseas markets, with thousands of products scheduled to be produced," Li said.
As the coronavirus outbreak is under better control in China, the country has sped up work resumption of businesses. The ventilator makers are increasing manpower to meet the growing global demand.
At Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics Co., Ltd., a medical device manufacturer based in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, employees from the headquarters are turning into frontline workers to help tighten screws, label and assemble components of ventilators.
The number of workers at Mindray's Guangming Manufacturing Center in Shenzhen has thus increased to more than 3,800 from 2,000 and the company also turns to automation. "Now we can triple capacity and produce around 3,000 ventilators per month, and we hope to increase it to 4,000 by June," said Jing Jungang, general manager of Mindray's Manufacturing Department.
In ten days since March 19, Chinese companies have provided more than 1,700 invasive ventilators to other countries, Xu said on Monday.
STRICT QUALITY CONTROL
The official with MIIT said the ministry will take more steps to elevate production capacity, and it has urged firms to tighten supervision over quality and enhance production safety.
Starting Wednesday, exporters of medical products including COVID-19 testing kits, medical face masks, medical protective suits, ventilators and infrared thermometers need to provide extra documentation when they go through customs clearance, according to the commerce ministry.
The document, in either print or digital form, should contain a declaration that the products have been officially registered in China and meet the quality-control standards of respective export destinations, the ministry said in a notice on its website.
Jiangsu Yuyue Medical Equipment & Supply Co., Ltd., a major Chinese ventilator maker, announced Wednesday that certain types of ventilators made by its subsidiary obtained an Emergency Use Authorization in the United States.
"We have delivered 7,000 non-invasive ventilators to domestic market since the outbreak. Recently, the company has received orders for medical supplies from 58 countries, and the demand for ventilators has surpassed 20,000," said Yuan Zhen, deputy general manager of the company.
Yuan said all the exported ventilators are easy to operate with English manuals and installation instruction videos.
"But manufacturing a ventilator is no easy task, it requires strict quality control," he said, noting their research and development is based on clinical needs. "Products will first go through testing processes in the specialized test center, and then get tested again by third-party institutions and hospitals."
Each ventilator has more than 1,000 components, and some major suppliers of these parts are located in foreign countries. It requires the coordination of all sides.
"Some of our components including the solenoid valve are imported from overseas, and the suppliers are also working day and night, but there are many uncertainties due to the pandemic," said Li with the Beijing-based company.
A supplier of ventilator components told Xinhua that the solenoid valve is a precision electronic part, and the demand of a domestic ventilator company is about thousands of sets per year, but the figure rose up to 80,000 in a short period since late January.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo called for global solutions to address the challenge caused by the pandemic. "Trade allows for the efficient production and supply of basic goods and services, medical supplies and equipment...Keeping trade and investment flowing will be critical to keep shelves plentiful and prices affordable," he said in a video on the organization's website.
To speed up deliveries of ventilators desperately needed worldwide, the Chinese government has also lent a hand. Local authorities give customs clearance priority to key components, promote work resumption of suppliers, and offer financial support for medical supplies enterprises.
For instance, starting March 19, Beijing Medical Products Administration cut handling time from seven days to one day for export certificate related to medical equipment.
"As we breathe the same air and share the same future, we will go to great lengths to contribute our own efforts into global fight against the coronavirus," Li said.
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