Thai billionaire to fund new factory . . .
Thailand’s richest man, and owner of Charoen Pokphand Group, a major Thai conglomerate, announced Thursday that his company will invest C$4.28 million to build a factory to produce face masks within five weeks. The new factory will produce three million face masks per month, which it intends to provide free of charge to domestic hospital personnel and others without access to masks to offset the country’s critical shortage. Thailand’s government banned the export of face masks and hand sanitizers in early February in an attempt to meet surging domestic demand. As of March 6, the country has 48 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including one fatality.
Asia’s medical supply chain disrupted . . .
In response to the prospect of medical shortages, many manufacturing firms in Asia are shifting their production models. The Japanese electronics maker Sharp recently said it will start making surgical masks using a plant in central Japan that usually makes televisions. Chinese state-owned oil giant Sinopec announced at the end of February that it will invest C$38 million to produce medical face masks.
Long-term impacts for investment . . .
The entire world is grappling with how to respond to COVID-19, diagnose and treat the sick, and prevent the virus’ spread. While government and corporate decisions to re-orient the production from existing manufacturing products to face masks and medicines to address critical domestic shortages is understandable, such decisions may make attracting foreign investment more difficult in the future.