Coronavirus: spike in scams and counterfeit goods

17 March 2020

Instances of hoarding and price gouging of in-demand products such as hand sanitiser have risen as global demand increases, according to a report. 

The report, from the British Standards Institution (BSI), said global shortages caused by the outbreak have led to peripheral security challenges such as a spike in scams and suspicious products.

“BSI noted instances of smuggled and counterfeit medical masks in areas including the Guangdong province of China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. It also noted the hoarding of and the profiteering from mask sales. 

“As demand increases globally for disinfectants and medical supplies, several shortages were reported. With such shortages comes an ongoing risk of counterfeiting, stockpiling, price gouging, and the targeting of such products by thieves that will only worsen in correlation to the spread of Covid-19,” the report warned. 

The current crisis has highlighted the “current fragility of global supply chains” and propelled supply chain resilience into the public eye in the first quarter of 2020 to an “unprecedented degree”, BSI said.

“The failure of one link in the chain has the potential to cause extensive disruptions throughout,” the report said. 

Factory shutdowns, travel restrictions and labour shortages in China in the early months of 2020 have all impacted global supply chains.

A complex and varied response from individual governments to contain the virus will create “further disruptions and require businesses to adopt adaptive business continuity measures” that consider all types of natural disasters including disease outbreaks, it continued. 

“The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted the importance of continual communication with suppliers abroad and knowing their vulnerabilities to disease outbreaks. It has already led to extensive delays in security, social compliance, environmental, and other forms of auditing, making it critical for companies to plan for how best to use the downtime to effectively improve their internal programme,” BSI said. 

In order to mitigate the impact of coronavirus now, BSI urged firms to communicate business continuity plans to suppliers and service providers, guiding them on how and when they should continue to operate alongside or within their organisation. 

“Lessons learned in 2020 from the Covid-19 outbreak on how to better mitigate disease spread and absorb delays to manufacturing and global shipping will likely shape how businesses are able to respond to other possible disease outbreaks in the future,” it said.

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