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Covid-19 update: 16 July 2020

16 Jul 2020

A round-up of this week's coronavirus-related news and countermeasures from the photonics industry.

In view of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on relevant markets, Carl Zeiss Meditec expects to see a further impact on business development in the remainder of fiscal year 2019/20 compared to previous year.

The company’s statement of July 15th said, “Assuming a recovery in markets and, in particular, that no significant additional measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic will impact development, management anticipates revenue of around €1.3 billion for 2019/20 compared with previous year revenue of €1.459 billion.” The quarterly statement of the first nine months of fiscal year 2019/20 will be published on August 5, 2020.

Meanwhile, parent company Zeiss has created what it calls a virtual trade show booth – Virtual Cine Expo – where customers and partners can directly interact with Zeiss’s cinematography experts. Featuring interactive content and live presentations, the Zeiss team is providing a look at new products as well as other ongoing projects and topics.

The company says, “Not only can visitors learn about the latest innovations like the three new Zeiss Supreme Prime lenses, but they can also explore all of the key features and details of our Supreme Prime Radiance lenses.”

The virtual booth’s 360° experience offers visitors the chance to discover the wide range of solutions in the way they would expect from a trade show booth. Zeiss adds, “Since in-person trade shows aren’t possible due to the current situation, the Virtual Cine Expo also aims to move personal interactions to a digital format in the best possible way. Interactive touchpoints give visitors different points of access to watch videos, read information, get in touch with us, and participate in conversations or lectures.”

Various product demos and presentations will be available in the demo area that offer a more detailed look at the different focal lengths or the flares of Supreme Prime lenses, for example. The virtual trade show booth will also stay online after July 17 and will remain accessible until Fall 2020.

In the USA, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership has awarded CARES Act funding to its centers to help manufacturers increase production of products that support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as personal protective equipment, and to reach new suppliers or markets, and recover from workforce and supply chain interruptions.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded $50 million in emergency funding to support U.S. manufacturers in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funding, announced on July 8th, will allow the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico to offer services that help manufacturers increase production of products that support the response to the pandemic, such as PPE, to reach new suppliers or markets, and recover from workforce and supply chain interruptions.

The funding represents a one-time allocation from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, under which MEP centers may accept this funding without the private contribution match normally required.

The centers may use these awards for new initiatives to help manufacturers increase production of PPE or establish new supplier relationships, or more broadly to support a national manufacturing recovery from the crisis. The funding awards to the 51 MEP centers range from $91,000 to $6.1 million and have performance periods ending on or before September 30, 2021. Due to the critical need for this funding, all awards were made within 90 days of the passage of the CARES Act.

Scientists call for further Covid-19 measures

In an open letter, a group of scientists from across the world claim that Covid-19 can be transmitted through the air and they are calling on the World Health Organization and political leaders to step up preventive measures.

The letter states, “We appeal to the medical community and to the relevant national and international bodies to recognize the potential for airborne spread of Covid-19. There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory microdroplets at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room scale), and we are advocating for the use of preventive measures to mitigate this route of airborne transmission.”

• See also: Experts weigh in on airborne transmission of Covid-19 (University of Colorado, Boulder).

Studies by the signatories and other scientists have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking, and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in air and pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond 1 to 2 m from an infected individual. For example, at typical indoor air velocities, a 5µm droplet will travel tens of meters, much greater than the scale of a typical room, while settling from a height of 1.5 m to the floor.

Many studies conducted on the spread of other viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and influenza, show that viable airborne viruses can be exhaled and/or detected in the indoor environment of infected patients. This poses the risk that people sharing such environments can potentially inhale these viruses, resulting in infection and disease.

The letter continues, “The current guidance from numerous international and national bodies focuses on hand washing, maintaining social distancing, and droplet precautions. Most public health organizations, including the WHO, do not recognize airborne transmission except for aerosol-generating procedures performed in healthcare settings. Hand washing and social distancing are appropriate, but in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people.”

VentilatorChallengeUK supplies 13,000 ventilators to National Health Service

On Sunday 5th July, the work of VentilatorChallengeUK, the Consortium of UK aerospace, motorsport, automotive and medical businesses – of which Renishaw was a founding member – concluded after more than doubling the stock available to the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

Formed on 19 March in response to the anticipated escalation in Covid-19 cases, the consortium has worked with great determination and energy to deliver critical Penlon ESO 2 and Smiths ParaPAC plus ventilators to the NHS throughout the crisis. In almost four months, the consortium achieved the following:

  • Scaled-up the Penlon ESO2 Emergency and Smiths paraPAC Plus ventilators. Both met clinicians' requirements as understanding of the virus progressed.
  • Established, from scratch, seven new large-scale manufacturing facilities across the UK.
  • Ventilator peak production exceeded 400 devices a day, with the shortest time taken to achieve 1000 ventilators being 3 days.
  • Despite global competition for parts and lockdown challenges during the pandemic the team sourced part from over 22 countries, with the furthest distance travelled by a single part being 5,226 miles.
  • VentilatorChallengeUK made its last shipment of finished ventilators on Sunday 5th July, since when consortium businesses have reverted to regular production.

Gartner survey reveals 82% of companies plan to let staff work remotely more often

A newly-published Gartner survey of 127 companies, revealed 82% of leaders intend to permit remote working some of the time as employees return to the workplace following lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

For many organizations with employees working both onsite and remotely, adapting to a new, more complex hybrid workforce is the challenge as how people work together to get their job done evolves, comments the market analyst.

Nearly half (47%) said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time going forward. For some organizations, flex time will be the new norm as 43% of survey respondents reported they will grant employees flex days or hours.

“The Covid-19 pandemic brought about a huge experiment in widespread remote working,” said Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice. “As business leaders plan and execute reopening of their workplaces, they are evaluating more permanent remote working arrangements as a way to meet employee expectations and to build more resilient business operations.”

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