London - Leaders over these days of emergency are talking about economy reconversion "from peace to war", implying that in order to tackle the ongoing pandemic, manufacturers should shift their production lines to what is urgently needed to hospitals to treat covid-19 most serious cases and save lives: respiratory ventilators and intensive care units.
In the worst case scenario the NHS will need 20,000 more ventilators as now nearly 5000 adult ventilators and 900 for children are available in critical care facilities, BBC reports.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson compared the effort needed to what Great Britain did during WWII switching production to build the spitfires airctaft.
Many soon after answered with a pragmatic set of evidence this is not feasible because ICU are complex machines with advanced software and hardware, you cannot turn for instance an aircraft engine production manufacturer into a pulmonary ventilator one because this would require expertise and materials these companies never used and now even not available for import given the emergency and the global demand grown exponentially over the last month and reduced export of machines components because countries are facing their own national COV19 emergency.
While ventilator makers voiced their scepticism on the possibility of car makers and similar manufacturers switching production, Rolls Royce, JCB, Honda, Philips and Unipart answered Johnson’s call opening to the chance of producing single components (and not the whole units) and, in order to avert licence issuing which takes years, they would operate through subcontractors.
As useful example: two medics in the Sant’Orsola hospital in Bologna, (in Emilia Romagna made by its 524 victims until Friday, the second most hit region after Lombardy) re-invented an ICU pulmonary ventilator able to be connected to two patients instead than one only: it’s already been tested and now the machines will be available from next week. These will double the ability to treat emergency covid-19 cases. (source La Stampa)
Italy is also importing over these weeks 1000/1500 ventilators from China. Ventilators are urgently needed to save lives as the reason why the country is so badly hit is it has the world’s oldest population after Japan.
“The average age of those who died was 78.5 years, with the youngest victim aged 31 and the oldest 103. The median age was 80. The median age for the women who died was 82 against 79 for men. [...] On being admitted to hospital, 76% had a fever, 73% had breathing difficulties, 40% had a cough and 8% had diarrhea. The median time between the onset of the first symptoms and subsequent death was eight days, with the median time spent in hospital just four days". (Reuters report based on Italian ISS figures)
Medics in Bergamo are already facing the tough choice between life and death for critically ill patients as ventilators are not enough for all: this is the main factor determining the high death toll given the huge number of elderly killed by coronavirus induced pneumonia.
Lack of medical personnel and the late response are other factors because, as reported by Huffington Post, death rate in the most hit area of Bergamo and surroundings started rising far beyond the annual season average of 100 to 600 per month since early January, but this had not been attributed to coronavirus spread because information about it wasn’t circulating as yet; and that’s why those who blame China for hiding the the virus spreading, have a point here.
Back to the ‘spitfire’ production, in case this worked, new upscaled production would take months to bring results and might not be ready on time for the peak of the contagion: and here it comes the delaying strategy by phases in order to lowering pick but it looks it’s too late for this to happen.
On Friday 20 March London Northwick Park Hospital launched an alarm: no more ICU available, so Covid-19 patients in need of intensive care ventilators to survive have been sent to the nearest hospitals.
And this happened the same day the government announced restrictions: closure of pubs, restaurants, cafes, and allowed businesses to enforce social distancing and employees working from home by approving an 80% wage compensation.
The stage of contagion, therefore, is already advanced and effect of ‘stay home’ policy will see its outcome not earlier than 2/3 weeks. Meanwhile the course of the disease for those infected will go on amid concern of missing ICU.
The stop to business should have been introduced earlier, then, as UK is seeing the wave of contagion coming after Italy and China and had time to act; but how much more money this would have cost?
Now that we’re going to face death here in Europe, it’s the right time to reconvert our chains of production based on what we do actually need. Based on priorities, on what is actually useful, progressive, healthy for all; this will consequently lead to an economy respectful and wise of nature.
Now it’s the right moment to do this, given the unprecedented financial support and compensation from national governments and international financial actors. Furthermore multinationals and lobbies, given the gravity of the threatening pandemic, should not oppose a reset of the overall course of economy.
Are, for instance weapons manufacturers BAE Systems, Leonardo, Lockheed Martin useful to the society? And what about oil giants, Total, Eni, Shell; isn’t this the great chance to get rid of them by imposing, in some way, their total reconversion in something useful and less damaging to our lungs, air and waters?
Now that our sky is cleared of pollution and even Venice’s canals turned transparent, now that polluting aircraft are grounded, isn’t the right moment to reconvert the economy, not from a peace to war one, but the opposite from the warfare economy to a peaceful one? As we have forcibly changed our lives staying home until new order, without travelling by car, flight, and public transports, isn’t this the right moment to introduce the famous ‘work less, work all’ formula, ban polluters and save oxygen to freely breath?
Something is telling us we have to convert our wartime production line into a peacetime one
This is the time to do it as we will never have financial compensation once again