PASC members in the frontline of efforts against COVID-19

Like many other organisations around the world, Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC) activities have been curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While all members were looking forward to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and workshops to be held in Vladivostok, Russia, this year, the decision has been made to postpone the event to May 2021.

At the most recent PASC Executive Committee (EC) meeting, held online, Mr Anton Shalaev, from the Russian standards organisation, GOST R, pointed out that the number of registered cases of COVID-19 were increasing in his country. It was therefore unlikely that his organisation would be able to hold a face-to-face AGM and workshops. As PASC unites countries from across many time zones, it would also be difficult to hold a full-length, two-day meeting virtually.

After discussion, the EC agreed that GOST R would host the PASC AGM in 2021. Fiji – who were intending to host the 2021 event – would submit a proposal for the 2022 AGM to be held in their country instead. Important agenda items – including the PASC Strategic Plan 2021-2025 and ISO/IEC elections – would be addressed in a virtual meeting of members in coming months.

While COVID-19 has affected PASC directly as a regional standards organisation, the coronavirus has impacted individual member countries significantly too. Given the health, economic and societal impacts of the pandemic, standards organisations have played a leading role in their countries to help combat the virus.

Standards bodies support local government and business in fighting COVID-19

Federal Agency on Technical Regulating and Metrology (GOST R)

The Russian national standardization body, GOST R, took several measures from March 2020 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the Russian Federation:

  • GOST R provided free access to 52 national (GOST R), regional (GOST), and international (ISO and IEC) standards in the field of medical devices and protective equipment.
  • Face-to-face meetings of all national technical committees were halted. However, digital tools meant virtual meetings and standards ballots were able to continue. This resulted in the number of national standards published from March to July 2020 more than doubling compared with the same period in 2018 and 2019.
  • To increase the importation of medical devices GOST R – working closely with the authority in charge of medical devices – prepared test programs based on ISO and IEC standards that do not have national adoptions.
  • To increase the volume of protective equipment manufactured in Russia, GOST R – together with the Ministry of Industry and Trade – asked Russian manufacturers of protective equipment who were willing to provide access to their company standards for others who wanted to start PPE production. More than ten have already agreed to this information sharing.

National Institute of Quality – Peru (INACAL)

Due to the effects of COVID-19 on the Peruvian economy, INACAL, their standards body, instituted guidelines to fast track the development and approval of pandemic-related standards. They created a national technical committee to focus on the emergency, together with relevant sub-committees, which all met virtually on digital platforms.

INACAL provided free access to stakeholders and the public using two virtual platforms:

  • Free standards, which focused on standards to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
  • A virtual reading room, which provides access to all national standards (no international adoptions were included) for a one-off three-day period

Additionally, the Peruvian standards body arranged open virtual meetings periodically to promote standards and their implementation.

National Standardization Agency of Indonesia (BSN)

BSN conducted standardisation-related activities to support the Indonesian government in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. This included providing:

  • Guidelines/ health protocols related to COVID-19
  • Increased public awareness about COVID-19 through social media
  • Full access to Indonesian National Standards (SNI) available in read only and flipbook format. These included standards related to masks, medical gloves, ventilators, hospital laundry, electro-medical equipment, laboratory management systems and medical devices, glasses, hand and floor sanitisers and medical device sterilisation, amongst others.
  • Free access to ISO standards related to COVID-19.

BSN also conducted webinars related to measuring COVID-19 from a standardisation perspective, such as testing methods, online transactions, smart cities, food safety, risk management and business continuity management.

National Standards Strategy for the United States (ANSI)

To support the critical efforts of many groups engaged in the combat against COVID-19 – including manufacturers, government agencies, national laboratories, research institutions, and universities – ANSI launched a portal providing free, read-only access to key ISO and IEC standards.

A total of 37 critical standards are currently included, covering: medical equipment and devices; protective clothing used in health care settings; and business continuity management, security, and resilience. The ANSI COVID-19 resources page highlights the U.S. standardization community’s wide-ranging activities supporting public health, safety, and infrastructure during the pandemic.

Singapore Standards Council (SSC, ESG)

SSC developed a tailored Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for COVID-19, to help Small and Medium Enterprises implement their business continuity plans in line with the latest health advisories. The BCP guide was adapted from the ISO Standard on Business continuity management systems, which can be applied to all sectors and all company sizes. SSC worked with partners and associations to promote the guide through webinars and outreach engagement.

SSC also developed standards to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as guidelines on e-commerce transactions to support the growing digital market, and the revised standard on mass temperature measurement using thermal imagers, which was expanded to include usage in public areas and buildings, like shopping malls. SSC is keen to work with other PASC members to explore new areas of standardisation to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China (SAC)

SAC also played a leading role in its country’s efforts to combat COVID-19. It worked closely with other Chinese government departments to promote technical standards to help prevent and control the pandemic, facilitate the import and export of preventative products and assist in the global fight against COVD-19.

SAC did this by increasing the supply of relevant standards and providing the following:

  • Technical support for epidemic prevention efforts
  • Information about Chinese and foreign standards related to epidemic prevention products
  • Standards information and technical assistance to facilitate the import and export of epidemicprevention products.

This information was shared on the SAC and ISO websites. Additionally, they provided epidemic prevention product standards to help manufacturers resume production and set up standardisation technical service platforms.

Standards Australia

Standards Australia worked closely with its Quality Infrastructure partners to develop a directory to further assist the design, manufacture and procurement of medical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This directory provides information on potentially relevant standards, corresponding test methods and accredited Australian laboratories and certifiers, as well as other valuable information. This work helped support manufacturers who pivoted from their traditional product lines to help meet domestic shortfalls of essential products.

Standards Council of Canada

Together with their standardization partners, SCC has compiled a list of relevant standards for medical devices, business continuity, and crisis management, with links to the appropriate Standards Development Organization for acquisition. Additionally, they have listed testing labs for personal protective equipment. This list should be considered a starting point, and consultation with the appropriate regulator is essential. More information can be found on the SCC COVID-19 webpage.

Standards New Zealand

This focus on innovation was also pursued in Standards New Zealand’s COVID-19 strategy. The country saw companies switch from making their traditional products to producing those which could help bridge gaps in the local availability of essential items.

For example, boutique distilleries switched from producing vodka and gin to hand sanitiser, and 3D printers were deployed to manufacture medical face masks. Standards NZ promoted that if companies were providing or accessing services, or designing, producing or buying products related to the COVID-19 pandemic, they should consult standards. The message that standards are a tried and tested way of improving quality and safety, enhancing products and services, and meeting industry best practice resonated well.

Part of the promotion of standards in New Zealand included highlighting a number of relevant ISO and IEC standards and their national adoptions that were made available for free to support global efforts against COVID-19.

Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI)

Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI) developed 27 new standards and adopted a number of international standards to support the efforts against COVID-19 pandemic. These standards relate to medical and protective equipment such as cloth masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, goggles for medical use, nitrile examination gloves, negative pressure cabinets, UVC sterilizers and lung ventilators for medical use.

TISI also provides e-License, e-Surveillance and remote assessment, as well as fee waivers for standard services. This is to support entrepreneurs affected by the suspension of conformity assessment, accreditation and market surveillance activities in response to social distancing and domestic lockdown measures.

The above are several examples of how the PASC community has rallied against COVID-19 and demonstrated the key role that standards are playing in the fight against the coronavirus. Standards continue to demonstrate their relevance as PASC member countries strive to keep their citizens safe and help them adjust to the new way that people live and work.