Businesses all over the world have found ways to alter the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of entirely halting operations and waiting for lockdowns and quarantines to be lifted, brands have started to become more creative and innovative in channeling their resources for a greater cause. 

American clothing brands Hanes and Los Angeles Apparel as well as Spanish brand Zara dedicated their manufacturing facilities to produce masks and hospital gowns. Likewise, apron brand Hedley & Bennett—aware of the diminishing supply of N95 masks used by healthcare frontliners—created masks with a high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filter for the public.

Other sectors of the industry have also followed suit. Disinfectants are now Nivea’s main focus while Ikea is creating supplies for hospital kits. Car manufacturers Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Rolls Royce, and Honda are now producing ventilators.

Even international luxury brands have stepped up in the fight against COVID-19. French multinational corporation LVMH, the company behind Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari, and Christian Dior, is using its perfume factories to produce hand sanitizers. Sister brands Balenciaga and Saint Laurent are just as committed in acquiring three million masks for French health service workers. Prada has already begun its production of 111,000 masks and 80,000 medical overalls while Gucci is doing the same with the goal of manufacturing over one million masks and 55,000 overalls. 

The local fight

In the Philippines, more brands, companies, and corporations are joining the list of adaptable industry leaders amid the pandemic. Jollibee Foods Corporation donated P100 million worth of products from its brands such as Jollibee, Chowking, and Burger King. Over 1,000 grocery packs have also been given to workers of V. Luna Hospital under the PLDT-Smart Foundation. To add to this, Ligo Sardines has redirected its 2020 advertising funds for COVID-19 relief and response efforts. Angkas also launched its own food delivery system where all of the fees go to their bikers.

“This isn’t for us. Para ito sa mga bikers at para sa inyo,” says Angkas in one of its social media posts. However, the company was quick to point out that its food delivery service will only be for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine so as not to venture “into the chaos that is food deliveries.” 

When the World Health Organization (WHO) released coronavirus’ genome sequence, the University of the Philippines National Institute of Health came up with its own testing kits. These kits are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and confirmed by WHO to yield accurate results in under two hours. But the growing number of persons under monitoring (PUMs) and persons under investigation (PUIs) demands an increase in the supply of test kits.

In response, 1,000 test kits from Korea’s Myeongji Hospital arrived in the Philippines through the Udenna Group while the Araneta Group donated the UP-made test kits to the Quezon City government. Meanwhile, business magnate and founder of Alibaba Group Jack Ma donated 500,000 masks. Ma also provided healthcare workers an electronic handbook on how to avoid contracting the virus when one is part of the frontline, the content of which are based on the experiences of Chinese frontliners.

The Gokongwei Brothers Foundation and Metrobank and GT Capital Holdings Group both decided to concentrate their resources (P100 million and P200 million, respectively) on the development of test kits and production of personal protective equipment (PPE). Meanwhile The SM Group has allocated P100 million to bring PPE to medical frontliners as well as distribute 20,000 free tests in government hospitals. Cosmetic surgery firm Belo Medical Group has also donated all their remaining stocks of PPE and will continue to do so once supplies reach them.

Alcohol has also become a scarce resource. Some 4,000 liters of alcohol was supplied to government hospitals under the directive of First Pacific Company Limited CEO Manny Pangilinan, who holds brands like PLDT, Smart, and Meralco. San Miguel Corporation is now also producing ethyl alcohol in its liquor power plant. Meanwhile, Alliance Global Group, the company behind Emperador, will donate one million liters of ethyl alcohol as it converts 86 percent of its stock alcohol into ones that can be used for sanitation in hospitals. 

As N95 masks faced a shortage due to the high number of purchases, groups have taken it upon themselves to make sure these items reach those that need it the most—the frontliners. Ten thousand and 5,700 pieces of N95 masks were donated by AC Health (under Ayala Corporation) and Aboitiz Group, respectively. The latter also supplied thermometers, surgical gloves, folding beds, lab goggles, and tents in the provinces.

The very workers behind these big businesses are also gravely affected as the enhanced community quarantine calls for the work suspension of non-essential businesses. Despite this, management of certain groups are still providing monthly salaries to employees, including full benefits and in some cases even bonuses. Labor Secretary Silvestre Belo III continues to call on other enterprises to go the extra mile in assisting their employees especially in this time of crisis.

The numbers behind these businesses are admittedly reassuring and perhaps greater than what some of us have expected. But as the world faces this “invisible enemy,” we need to do more than just to extinguish the small fires. The industry will continue to find ways to sustain itself and the societies that depend on it. However, we can’t wait for our resources to run dry. Any further increase of PUIs and PUMs must be prevented. We can only do so much to deal with the number of confirmed cases until it finally reaches zero.