Table 7

Snapshot of surging health supply measures implemented in six Asian countries

IndonesiaSingaporeSouth KoreaThailandThe PhilippinesVietnam
Domestic supply production and market initiativesFrom the beginning, hoarding of medical supplies was prohibited. The Ministry of Health accelerated certification of services for production and distribution licences while offering a 1-day service for marking authorisation. To tackle medical oxygen shortages, the conversion of 90% of industrial oxygen into oxygen for hospitals was approved during the Delta wave. Additionally, plans to produce an antiviral pill to combat the Omicron wave was unveiled.Singapore had promoted the setting up of domestic manufacturing capabilities such as ventilator production capabilities since mid-2020. Even in 2021, when demand for masks remained high, Singapore Technologies started producing medical-grade mask filters to resolve a critical vulnerability in its mask supply chain. Singapore had also inked deals with multiple pharmaceutical companies throughout the pandemic to ensure a wide portfolio of COVID-19 drugs.KCDC directed private companies to produce diagnostic reagents and expedited approvals will be granted. In March 2020, the government intervened to purchase 80% of the mask supply from Korean manufacturers, fully banned exports, set a price limit on mask sales, and limited the no of masks sold weekly through retailers. People who hoard masks faced imprisonment and financial penalties.Fabric and apparel companies also started manufacturing face masks by modifying existing production lines. Hand sanitisers were also reclassified as medical products to prevent unnecessary delays in their production. Manufacturers and distributors are required to inform the Internal Trade Department of the production cost, price, production volume and price labels to regulate prices of basic medical products.Prior to the pandemic, the Philippines was not a local producer of medical-grade PPEs. As medical supplies dwindled, the government called for the manufacturing sector to shift production towards PPEs and ventilators. The coalition of Philippine Manufacturers of PPEs which is composed of electronics and garment manufacturers rapidly augmented existing supplies through government support since 2020. In August 2021, the Department of Health announced a price ceiling for PCR tests, cartridge-based testing and home service tests.During the first outbreak, production lines that manufacture garments were converted to produce cloth masks instead. The government strictly prohibits arbitrary price increases, speculation or hoarding that affects the market for medical equipment for the prevention and control of COVID-19 across the country. Vietnam’s largest conglomerate also collaborated with external partners from other countries to manufacture ventilators for domestic use and eventually export.
National stockpileNo known national stockpile of medical supplies prior to the pandemic.Singapore maintains a national stockpile of PPE, medical, critical medications and vaccines for up to 6 months even prior to the pandemic.South Korea created a National Stockpile Plan for the management and distribution of medical countermeasures after an H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009 to maintain stock of appropriate medical countermeasures, equipment and other supplies for outbreaks of these diseases, including testing supplies.When the pandemic struck, Thailand had not maintained a national stockpile, the Kingdom was forced to look urgently for new external sources, explore domestic manufacturing alternatives and explore safe ways to reuse PPE. Efforts were made during the first months of 2020 to develop a national stockpile, but real-time digital inventory management was a major challenge, especially at the facility level.No known national stockpile of relevant medical supplies prior to the pandemic. In February 2020, a bill was filed with the Senate seeking to establish a national supply-chain management office. This was to be achieved by amending the charter of an extant government-owned corporation, the Philippine International Trading Corporation, to institutionalise the stockpiling of critical materials in) response to or in preparation for national emergencies.In September 2020, a national stockpile of medical supplies was recommended in preparation for future health emergencies.
Import and export regulationsAll countries limited export of medical supplies while lifting import taxes and easing importation rules for import of medical supplies, especially during the initial stages of the pandemic, but loosened these measures as domestic and international production of medical equipment and resources picked up at the end of 2020 and beyond.
  • KCDC, Korean Centre for Disease Control; PPE, personal protective equipment.