GQSP Colombia and national entities join forces in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

GQSP Colombia and national entities join forces in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

16 Apr 2020

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By Esther SALGUERO-GÓMEZ

The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest test of the modern medical system so far.  

Everyone is looking at the medical product supply chain. Shortages of products such as ventilators, masks, gloves, protective clothing, disinfectants and sanitizers are having a significant impact on patient care and hindering the efforts to stop the virus.

In Colombia, a number of companies have taken the initiative to adapt their production lines so that they can manufacture some of the key products required in the health emergency. To help ensure that these products are of the highest possible quality, the Global Quality and Standards Programme (GQSP) Colombia has worked with the Colombian Institute of Technical Standards and Certification (ICONTEC) to translate into Spanish 24 international standards addressing the manufacture and evaluation of goods used in health emergencies. Adherence to these standards will mean that manufacturers are producing medical products and equipment that are reliable and effective. The standards also provide the national authority regulating the commercialization of items related to pandemic control in Colombia with the necessary technical criteria on which to base its decisions. 

Mónica Vivas, Director of Standardization of ICONTEC, gave an example of how the standards are being used. “Together with the Ministry of Commerce and the COVID-19 management of the Presidency of the Republic, we have been able to disseminate the standards relevant to mask production to more than 1,700 people from different companies that are adapting their processes to produce health safety equipment. We have also held meetings with research centres that work in the development of ventilators to inform them about the applicable production standards.

The GQSP Colombia is a programme of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) implemented with the support of the Swiss Secretariat of State for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Colombian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism (MINCIT) and Colombia Productiva.

Roberto Enrique Montoya Villa, Executive Director of ICONTEC thanked the GQSP Colombia for its exceptional support in these difficult times. “Certainly, the work we have done with UNIDO and GQSP Colombia is a faithful testimony to the fulfillment of the mission of both organizations.”

GQPS Colombia is also taking other proactive steps to help manufacturers face the current crisis, publishing a Guide to Hygiene and Disinfection Recommendations” and hosting a series of educational webinars with industrial associations in order to share practical information on how to implement safety measures during the emergency. 

One webinar, “Hygiene and disinfection: preventive measures for productivity in times of COVID-19”, involved more than 900 representatives of companies from the pharmaceutical, chemicals, toiletries, cosmetics and foodstuff sectors. The webinar shared many recommendations with regard to the importance of effective cleaning and disinfection, criteria for selecting appropriate chemicals for disinfection, and measures to mitigate the risk of contagion in industrial plants.

Paola Ruge, Technical Coordinator of Acoplásticos, a trade association representing companies from the industrial chemical sector, described the webinar as “being very relevant to disseminate the protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, because, although many companies have general protocols, much stricter protocols are now required. Making this information available allows companies to not only protect their workers but also to facilitate the continuity of their business.”

Lorena Salazar, a representative of Productos Yuli, said “We clarified many doubts, reaffirmed the effectiveness of some protocols that we have already implemented, and also got some ideas on how to improve.”

GQSP Colombia is also helping to channel supply-demand information about basic goods for the manufacture of hand-cleaning products through its main national counterpart, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism. The aim is to facilitate and ensure the availability of the goods and ingredients necessary to meet the current demand in relation to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

With its GQSP Colombia programme, UNIDO is playing an important role,  providing expert advice on how to mitigate the disruption of global value chains, on how to best activate business operations that meet international standards in production, and on how to minimize safety risks at work.