Reply to: Coronavirus

David Spillett

Reply to: Coronavirus

Hi All,

COVID-19, and the impact of government decisions relating to it, is causing uncertainty and there is clearly concern about the continued delivery of treatment to patients. Unfortunately that uncertainty has escalated further with the announcement of travel restrictions from Europe to the US, effective for 30 days from 11.59pm ET on Friday March 13.

Given this, I thought it worthwhile to highlight some key points and reassure everyone that measures are being taken to maintain continuity of supply:

• As a result of decreased demand, and as previously experienced in Asia, we are seeing a sharp decline in passenger flights on affected Europe-US lanes, although cargo aircraft and passenger flights that originate outside the Schengen countries are not included in this restriction (UK, Ireland, Canada, Middle East, Asia). As such we have multiple options and are continually evaluating those solutions for every consignment, including the use of alternative approved carriers, routes and ports of entry.
• Clearly the situation is ever-changing and there have already been numerous incidences where flights were cancelled while consignments are in transit. One example was on Wednesday where a consignment was held in Germany, as the connecting flight to Italy was cancelled shortly prior to departure. Fortunately, World Courier was able to retrieve the consignment from the carrier, place it on an alternative (cargo flight) and facilitate delivery at 9am on Thursday morning, as soon as the site opened and was ready to receive it. Had there not been any capacity on the cargo flight, we had already identified a route to one of the land borders (one that remained open) and scheduled drivers with appropriate permits to meet at the border and facilitate delivery. A number of additional land borders have also now reopened, allowing further options should they be necessary.
• Concerning the situation in China, following the initial containment phase I’m pleased to say the clinical supply chain is returning to normal. Following the extended public holiday and quarantine periods, there were multiple consignments awaiting dispatch from our in-country depot. Whilst the depot was fully operational, many of the sites were closed or unwilling to receive non-essential deliveries. Within the last week the majority of those sites have now re-opened and are in regular contact to schedule the receipt of consignments in accordance with their priorities.
• There are also a number of sponsors who have transitioned to a Direct-to-Patient model in China and other countries, minimizing unnecessary travel for those patients and maintaining continuity of supply. The regulatory authorities also appear to be taking a pragmatic approach and appreciate the ethical need to reduce travel and facilitate patients access to medicines.

Putting my GCSG hat on, we have scheduled a workshop and panel discussion at the GCSG European Knowledge Forum (October 2020) that will review contingency plans and lessons learned from COVID-19. If there are any sponsor company representatives who would like to share their experiences in this capacity please let Ana and I know.

Finally if you have shipments planned in the coming days, please reach out to your courier partners as soon as possible so we can assess the potential options in advance and plan accordingly.