Weighing the impact of coronavirus

Jon Lawson

The coronavirus is unlike anything seen before, and as well as the human cost of its victims there will be inevitable economic ramifications. For manufacturing this may be summarised as coming in two forms: the public and the behind-the-scenes.

On the public front, take the Geneva Motor Show, the motor industry’s shop window, stopped in its tracks. This is the organiser’s statement: 

“The 90th edition of the GIMS, which was supposed to welcome the general public from 5 to 15 March 2020, will now not take place. This is an injunction decision of the Federal Council of 28 February 2020 that no events with more than 1,000 people are allowed to take place until 15 March 2020. The decision fell 3 days before the opening of the exhibition to the media.

The organisers accept this decision: "We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors' top priority. This is a case of force majeure and a tremendous loss for the manufacturers who have invested massively in their presence in Geneva. However, we are convinced that they will understand this decision," said Maurice Turrettini, Chairman of the Foundation Board. 

A few days before the opening of the event, the construction of the stands was very nearly complete. The situation changed with the appearance of the first confirmed coronavirus diseases in Switzerland and the injunction of the Federal Council on 28/02/2020. The event is cancelled due to this decision.

In the meantime, the dismantling of the event was organised. The financial consequences for all those involved in the event are significant and will need to be assessed over the coming weeks. Tickets already purchased for the event will be refunded.”
So far Italy has been hit hardest in Europe, particularly the northern part, known for its manufacturing. Lexus has rescheduled its ‘senses electrified’ event after the postponement of Milan Design Week 2020. 

These are some obvious signs of short term disruption, the longer term effects are impossible to predict. Clearly as China has so much manufacturing in a globalised world the knock-on effect to supply chains for firms like Apple could be significant even if the disease dies out soon, an unlikely outcome. As the world suffers further disruption the worst case scenario is that the entire manufacturing world may grind to a halt, raising the spectre of the central banks cutting the interest rates to zero or negative figures in an attempt to stimulate the economy and undo the damage caused by corona. 

How technology is helping in the fight against the virus

XRHealth has announced it will be providing virtual reality telehealth services to the Sheba Medical Centre in Israel to help the hospital treat incoming coronavirus-exposed patients quarantined at the hospital and, eventually, to monitor them after they return home.

XRHealth will be providing VR headsets that are set up with the company's specialised extended reality technology solutions and data analysis. These headsets will also include apps that will allow patients to take virtual tours of numerous geographical destinations.

"The ability to strap on a headset, lay back, relax and virtually visit any location they want will help patients to remain connected with the world and cope with feelings of isolation while being quarantined," says Eran Orr, CEO of XRHealth, the first certified ‘extended reality’ medical company in the world. "Our VR treatment platform also has programs that assist in working though stress and anxiety, which obviously are also prominent concerns for those being treated for coronavirus."

The Sheba Medical Centre has publicly embraced telemedicine in the past to treat patients remotely. Late last year, Sheba announced a partnership with XRHealth to establish the first fully VR-based hospital, utilising XRHealth's technology throughout each department. In this particular case, Sheba will be using telemedicine as the primary means of interacting and treating the group of Israelis on site. Those who have had exposure with the COVID-19 virus will be grouped in a special quarantined area on campus. Utilising multiple technologies, including the VR headsets, Sheba staff will be able to continuously monitor those quarantined while having very limited physical interaction. 

"We are excited to have multiple telemedicine technologies already on board to protect our staff and we welcome the addition of VR telehealth services as a treatment tool for patients," says Dr Galia Barkai, Head of Telemedicine at Sheba. "The ability to stay in touch with the outside world will certainly help the mental state of those quarantined for extended periods."



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