Vietnam offers little unmet demand for medical mask imports

12:29 | 23/03/2020
While Chinese manufacturers are announcing intentions to begin exporting medical face masks to help deal with the global COVID-19 pandemic, their choice of starting point, Vietnam, may prove a tough cookie, with little demand unmet by local producers.
vietnam offers little unmet demand for medical mask imports
Vietnam offers little unmet demand for medical mask imports

Shanghai Wisdom Supply Chain Management Co., Ltd. has issued an introduction about its medical and regular face masks which are effective to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. Moreover, it also affirmed that the epidemic has been brought under control in China after effective actions.

“The three-layer non-woven face masks which are produced in a strictly monitored, clean workshop the meet certification and key index requirements from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CE report and match EN14683-Type I standards. Customers placing a larger order will be able to enjoy lower unit costs. We can ship from our factory in China by DHL to your family/office/warehouse in usually just seven days after payment is received,” noted the announcement.

Shanghai Wisdom Supply Chain Management's move to start exporting masks shows the recovery of China. It is a surprise because just a month ago, the country had to import large volumes of masks from Vietnam. Notably, in the first six days of February, Vietnam exported 27.9 million masks to China, even causing pressure on the local market.

Concerns about mask and medical equipment inflow from China

According to the National Development and Reform Commission, before the COVID-19 epidemic broke out in China, the volume of masks produced in this country made up 50 per cent of the global supply with the daily capacity of 20 million units. Since then, the figure increased to 116 million units as of February 29.

Gao Shen, a Chinese expert forecast, that the production capacity of China this year will be as high as 10 times the original capacity. This prediction is understandable because the pandemic drew about 3,000 more enterprises on board to produce masks, many of which have been operating outside the textile and garment sector such as automobile manufacturer BYD and SAIC-GM-Wending, technology firm Foxconn Technology, and gas and petrol group Sinopec.

Gao Shen said that this manufacturing speed will cause a domestic surplus and will point China towards accelerating exports to markets that are suffering from the health crisis.

Shanghai Wisdom Supply Chain Management's introduction of its products in Vietnam suggests its export plans will begin with Vietnam as China is already one of the largest import markets for the country.

Meanwhile, local supply already covers demand. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Vietnam has approximately 38 enterprises producing three-layer masks with the capacity of 1.24 million units a day and two other firms producing N95 masks with the daily capacity of 32,000 units.

Along with masks, the National Medical Products Administration of China has approved the use of Favilavir, an anti-viral drug, as treatment for coronavirus. The drug has reportedly shown efficacy in treating the disease with minimal side effects in a clinical trial involving 70 patients. The clinical trial is being conducted in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

Conservative import outlook

As Vietnam may import Chinese products due to the huge demand for anti-COVID-19 items, local health specialists have voiced their concerns about importing Chinese products.

Regarding the treatment of coronavirus patient by Favilavir, Nguyen Trung Cap, head of the emergency department of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, said the medicine is still in the experimental stage and is not widely used even in China.

“The treatments in Vietnam are based on experiences from many countries, including China. The treatments we adopt have been effective, so I believe we should follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the World Health Organisation (WHO),” Cap emphasised.

Relating to the products that will be present in the local market, the MoH stated that based on procedures on drug registration for circulation stipulated at Circular No.32/2018/TT-BYT, all new medicines have to go through clinical trial before being put into circulation.

Echoing this, Nguyen Ngoc Sang, doctor of the tropical diseases department of Cho Ray Hospital (Ho Chi Minh City), who directly treated two first COVID-19 patients, said that clinical testing for the drugs is essential, and it is more important to follow the MoH’s directions.

“Along with good treatment, COVID-19 patients who have a strong immune system will recover from the disease within 7-10 days,” said Sang, claiming that the use of new products seems somewhat unnecessary.

Currently, in Vietnam, the Ministry of Science and Technology has approved the project on reviewing the effects and safety of adding Lopinavir/Ritonavir to COVID-19 treatment. However, the clinical trial will take at least four weeks and research results are only expected in about 12 months.

According to the Decree No.36/2016/ND-CP, all healthcare devices require import licenses from the MoH before they can be brought into the country. For the items classified as type A (medical equipment with a low level of risk), the manufacturers have to get documents proving that they comply with the standards set by the provincial and city departments of health and Vietnam Customs.

By Kim Anh

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