The Supply Chain Response to India’s Second Covid Wave!

In April 2021, India experienced the second wave of Covid-19. The world’s largest democracy has seen a huge spike in Covid infections with more than 3,000 fresh Covid cases daily. The discovery of the British variant in September 2020 was a big warning to be alert, but our system has been slow at detecting the mutant variants of concern. We probably took it lightly and got into celebration mode.

The government and scientific community never actually expect a second wave of this magnitude. The first phase of Covid was a year-long affair, with the first six months seeing an increase and then the next six months witnessing declining numbers and a consistently low number of cases.

between 27th December 2020 and 11 March 2021 there were around 20,000 Covid cases per day and it was thought the pattern would continue. There was a lapse of understanding here.

After the second wave hit India in April 2021, the healthcare system was stretched to the breaking point and India experienced huge shortages of kits, medicines, liquid oxygen, oxygen tanks and concentrators. between the 2nd and 3approxIn the week of April itself, India had registered 38,000 new cases. As India literally gasped for oxygen, many of its allies and friends came forward to help provide cryogenic oxygen tanks, oxygen concentrators, medicines and kits.

An important point to note here is that India has adequate oxygen production. However, lack of coordination between the state, center and health sector, as well as transportation problems, led to this struggle to cope with the sudden increase in demand for liquid oxygen.

17 countries came forward and reached out their hand of support to India. The US sent ventilators, oxygen concentrators, rapid diagnostic kits and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The US also secured the immediate supply of raw materials for the development of the Covishield vaccine in India.

The UK helped India with 600 essential medical equipment including 495 oxygen tankers, 120 non-invasive and 20 manual ventilators. Luxembourg and Sweden sent 58 and 120 ventilators, respectively.

Australia also sent an immediate aid package containing ventilators, oxygen tanks and PPE kits. Singapore donated 4 cryogenic oxygen tanks flown by Indian Air Force. High-capacity oxygen tankers were flown from the United Arab Emirates.

France and Germany also expanded their support with the delivery of emergency medical equipment. France offered 8 oxygen generating units that could be quickly installed, along with 5 liquid oxygen tanks, 200 electric syringe pushers, 28 ventilators and their consumables. While Germany offered help to set up a mobile oxygen production facility and provided 80 million K95 masks.

Russia sent Covid aid in the form of oxygen concentrators and generators. It also announced the delivery of 3 to 4 lakh units of Remdesvir Injection, a Covid drug that India was in short supply. Belgium also participated to offer 9000 doses of Remdesvir.

Saudi Arabia shipped 80 tons of liquid oxygen to India and Portugal pledged 20,000 liters of oxygen per week to India along with 5,503 vials of Remdesvir.

Some of the other countries that helped us in this severe crisis were Bhutan, Ireland, Romania, Portugal, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Aside from these US private sector companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple, the US Chamber of Commerce offered India support in various ways. Google provided GiveIndia and UNICEF with Rs 135 crore in medical supplies and grants to spread vital information to the masses.

The US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) helped provide 12 ISO containers for oxygen transport. The USISPF also procured 1,00,000 portable oxygen concentrators for home and hospital use through donations from its member companies. It also worked on donating intensive care beds, N 95 masks, Covid test kits and other essential medical equipment. USISPF with its NGO partners supported India to set up medical centers and vaccination centers on company premises.

Gilead supplied 1,00,000 vials of Remdesivir to HLL Lifecare Limited free of charge. As a subsidiary of the Government of India, HLL has played a crucial role in efforts to contain Covid 19. HLL acts as a hub for the Union Department of Health and Family Welfare in the procurement and distribution of medicines and medical equipment.

WHO and UNICEF have been constantly working to secure supplies and equipment including 7000 oxygen concentrators, Covid-19 testing devices, 500 nasal devices and PPE kits.

The WHO has clearly stated that filling critical gaps in primary health care and managing hospital capacity are top priorities for India in this deadly wave of the second wave of Covid-19.

DHL and FEDEX played an important role in inbound logistics and distribution. The process included transportation and consolidation in the sourcing country, while addressing issues such as local quality checks and transportation capacity bottlenecks. The next step was inbound transportation while addressing issues such as limited and volatile cargo capacity, time constraints and difficult ETAs.

This was followed by obtaining customs clearance and regulations considering supplier certification, qualification and changes in import regulations. Lack of traceability and transparency was another overarching pain point.

India witnessed record Covid cases as early as late April, with a rising death toll from acute oxygen deprivation. As planeloads of medicine, oxygen tanks and ventilators began pouring in, now was the time to ensure those supplies got to those who need them most without further delay.

It took the Department of Health nearly a week to create a streamlined process for distributing Covid medical supplies to states. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) guidelines for distributing relief supplies were released on May 2 and did not include a distribution start date.

It is important to understand that getting the supplies to a domestic airport or a national port is only half the battle. After shipments arrive at the airport or a national port, there is a long way to go.

Even when the relief planes or ships arrive, the distribution process is quite complex, involving many stages and ministries. First, the medical supplies are received by the Red Cross Society, which carries out the customs clearance of the goods in accordance with the guidelines of the Indian government.

The supplies, which arrive in various forms, need to be unpacked and checked and then handed over to HLL Lifecare Limited, the government owned subsidiary that handles and manages the transportation of all these medical supplies across India. Areas where the critical care burden was highest are prioritized.

This is where AWL India came in as HLL’s private domestic logistics partner.

AWL has excellently handled the logistics related to oxygen supply chain management in the country.

With its stable local storage capacity and experience in local logistics, AWL ensured a stable supply of oxygen and other life-saving medical supplies to various states. With its IOT-enabled systems, AWL provided innovative temperature-controlled logistics solutions for healthcare products during the pandemic, providing excellent supply chain management for oxygen and medicines, helping to save thousands of lives during this crisis.

AWL India also effectively used its certification and experience in transportation and storage of life science products to adequately meet the needs of medical supplies transportation.

AWL has overcome all transparency problems with its extensive data functions. Its high-tech app, Chakshu, provided a dashboard for constant, real-time tracking of shipment status and monitoring of variables that may affect delivery, including supplier health, regulations, and epidemiology.

Chakshu dashboard provided full shipment details with SKU number to ensure full transparency. Where a shipment comes from, what’s inside, what needs to be delivered to which location and time – every detail can be tracked.

With AWL’s analytics-driven inventory management, close monitoring, and constant risk assessment, the medical supplies were successfully shipped to various states. As a certified medical transporter, it also helped build oxygen facilities by supporting the transportation of raw materials.

AWL India has been instrumental in bringing critical medical supplies to the hospitals in various states of India with its Last Mile, Locally Tailored and Floor Distribution models.

Learning from the mistakes made during the second wave of Covid 19, India would now need to work on its overall logistical infrastructure and capacity so that we are well prepared in the event of a third wave. First-class logistics management will also contribute to the smooth transport of vaccines this year and every year. This in turn will help us keep reinfection rates down by slowing down the pace of Corona virus mutations.

AWL India is a quality supply chain management and logistics provider with unmatched global expertise and world-class infrastructure.

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India’s second article and permission to publish here provided by Ajay Jha. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on July 29th, 2021.

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