The United States' treasury department reported budget deficit in October rose 111 percent to US$284 billion from a year ago stood at $134 billion - Photo: Privacy

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Based on new IHS Markit data, the United States (US) shortage of medical supplies is being exacerbated by trade disruptions from the COVID-19. On a volume basis, China accounted for over one-third (34 percent) of US imports of critical medical supplies in 2019.

The medical supply category includes surgical and medical gloves, protective gear and masks, medical and surgical instruments and ventilators. There is a major risk that the disruptions of the global medical supply chain will hinder the ability to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when both the US and global healthcare systems are racing to ensure the capacity needed to combat the virus.

The latest data showed, with US$14 billion, China is the largest global exporter of medical supplies. US annual imports of medical supplies from China stood at $1.1 billion entering 2020, 18 percent of all medical supplies imports, equating to around 4.8 percent of the total US medical supply market.

China is only slightly behind medical supply imports from Mexico, which stood at $1.3 billion in 2019. While, Germany is in third place with around $830 million worth of exports to the US.

Lack of access to foreign supplies is hindering the US healthcare system’ response as demand surges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far Mexico has taken few government measures to prevent the spread and appears unprepared compared to other countries.

If the epidemic does take hold, it will place further strain on the production and supply for medical goods imported from the United States’ southern neighbor. At the same time, many countries are shutting down their borders on exports of medical supplies and pharmaceutical products to concentrate on the surge in domestic demand as COVID-19 works its way around the world.

The disruption of global trade in medical supplies will be a setback for the global collaboration necessary to deal with a deadly global epidemic. There’s going to be a shortfall in medical supplies, despite the effort by the US and other countries to curtail the impact with a major ramp up in domestic production.

Because of the return of Chinese industrial production, and the conversion of many companies away from their traditional businesses to the production of medical supplies, China is becoming the go-to source for other countries in desperate need of supplies.

As of Sunday, total number of cases of COVID-19 in the world recorded more than 700,000, driven by a surge in cases in the US). The number of cases in the US jumped by 17,591 to 141,169 cases.

US’ President Donald Trump said he would extend an appeal for Americans to maintain social distancing from each other until April 30. He previously intended to encourage many Americans to return to normal activities on April 12. The Trump administration estimates that the peak of deaths due to the corona pandemic in the US will be reached in about two weeks.

Written by Gustav Ando from IHS Markit