COVID-19: Quality Infrastructure in the fight against the Coronavirus
Imagine nurses, doctors, and care givers are being provided with masks and gloves to protect themselves and patients from infection with the coronavirus but are unsure about their quality standards. Especially when risking life on the front line, one needs effective and reliable medical equipment. Eventually, everyone is at risk if masks and gloves that fail to comply with the needed quality standards are being produced and distributed to hospitals and other health care institutions. Quality Infrastructure (QI) can prevent this through standards, testing and certification, accreditation, and market surveillance.
In light of the current global crisis, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has published a factsheet which illustrates multiple ways in which QI can help in the fight against Covid-19. For example, standards as well as fast but effective testing ensure that medical equipment such as masks or respirators are suitable. This is particularly important at present, as companies from outside the medical sector, like the automotive industry, re-organise production processes towards the manufacturing of medical devices and personal protective equipment (PPE).
The coronavirus crisis also highlights the opportunity of applying digital tools such as contact tracing through smartphone apps. Effective privacy and internationally harmonised security standards and certification are crucial to increase people’s trust in such digital tools and thereby support their wide-spread use.
QI institutions like the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) have reacted quickly to the current challenges by providing several European and international standards for medical devices and PPE free of charge. Furthermore, the German Association for Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Information Technology (VDE) has made a free and quick check for hospitals available to assess the safety of medical devices and equipment.
Another contribution of a well-functioning QI is that it eases trade of essential goods during the crisis. This is achieved through the mutual recognition of test results from accredited bodies which creates trust in products manufactured abroad. These are only a few examples of how QI institutions support the continuity of qualitative trade also during this crisis. The challenges surrounding the coronavirus vividly show the growing importance of an internationally harmonised QI, especially in critical areas like medical equipment.
Through the Global Project Quality Infrastructure (GPQI), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) engages in technical and political dialogues with Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and Mexico to reduce technical barriers to trade, enhance product safety, and strengthen consumer protection. GPQI serves as a platform to improve the mutual understanding of policies and regulations, and to jointly develop positions and solutions for international technical harmonisation. The dialogues include ministries, regulators, public agencies, standards and accreditation bodies, industry experts, associations, companies, and technical and scientific institutions. BMWi has commissioned the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH – the German Agency for International Cooperation – to support the implementation of GPQI.
Please reach out to us if you want to get involved in the dialogues on quality infrastructure.