The increasing demand for medical products to contain COVID-19 has led to an expansion in the trafficking of substandard and falsified medical products, posing significant risks for public health, said a United Nations research published on Wednesday.
The coronavirus has further highlighted the shortcomings in regulatory and legal frameworks aimed at preventing the manufacture and trafficking of such products, according to the “COVID-19-related Trafficking of Medical Products as a Threat to Public Health” research brief published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
“Health and lives are at risk with criminals exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to cash in on public anxiety and increased demand for PPE (personal protective equipment) and medications,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly.
“We need to help countries increase cooperation to close gaps, build law enforcement and criminal justice capacity, and drive public awareness to keep people safe,” she added.
Criminal groups have also quickly adjusted to the opportunities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic to exploit the vulnerabilities and gaps in the health and criminal justice systems, according to the research.
UNODC’s research also predicted that the behavior of organized criminal groups will gradually change over the course of the pandemic, particularly when a vaccine is developed and when these groups will likely shift their focus from trafficking in PPE to trafficking in the vaccine.