COVID-19 and Trump’s indifference helped human rights abusers in 2020
Durov rejects Western funds’ offer to buy 5%-10% of Telegram with $30bn valuation
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Lukashenko: I am no enemy of the people
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New Ukrainian VC firm QPDigital aims to invest up to $100 million in digital startups
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FPRI BMB Ukraine: Most Ukrainians are optimistic about 2021 – poll
OUTLOOK 2021 Lithuania
EBRD says loan to Estonia’s controversial Porto Franco project was never disbursed
Estonian premier quits after Tallinn development scandal
Top Centre Party official suspected of corruption in Tallinn real estate scandal
Czech Pirates and Mayors approve final coalition agreement for 2021 elections
OUTLOOK 2021 Czechia
BRICKS & MORTAR: Rosier future beckons for CEE retailers after year of change and disruption
Romanian tech entrepreneurs expand into banking sector
OUTLOOK 2021 Hungary
Hungarian government remains silent after Capitol riots
Storming parliaments: New Europe's greatest hits
World Bank expects modest recovery for Europe and Central Asia in 2021
FDI inflows to CEE down 58% in 1H20 but rebound expected
OUTLOOK 2021 Slovakia
Slovakia to invest €1.2bn in digitisation
BALKAN BLOG: The controversial recipe for building up Albania
Heavy flooding causes chaos in parts of Southeast Europe
Vodafone Albania plans €100mn infrastructure investments after AbCom merger
OUTLOOK 2021 Albania
Kyiv accuses Bosnian President Dodik of lying about icon gifted to Russian foreign minister
Bosnia’s real GDP contracts 6.3% y/y in 3Q20
Sofia-based LAUNCHub Ventures holds first close of new fund on €44mn
ING THINK: Growth in the Balkans: from zero to hero again?
OUTLOOK 2020 Bulgaria
Labour demand down 28% y/y in Croatia in 2020
Zagreb Stock Exchange's Crobex10 index at highest level since March 5
OUTLOOK 2021 Kosovo
Arrera Automobili aims to launch Albania’s first supercar
World Bank revises projection for Moldova’s 2020 GDP decline to 7.2%
Moldova’s PM resigns to prepare the ground for early elections
Socialist lawmakers in Moldova scrap settlement on $1bn bank frauds
Montenegro’s new ruling coalition carves up top state jobs
OUTLOOK 2021 Montenegro
Vast tide of floating waste threatens Balkan hydropower plants
North Macedonia's manufacturing confidence indicator down by 8.5 pp y/y in December
OUTLOOK 2021 North Macedonia
Transparency International warns of high corruption risk in CEE defence sectors
Moldova fears flooding from Ukraine's planned Dniester hydropower plants
Romania’s industrial recovery paused in November
OUTLOOK 2021 Serbia
Slovenia’s government to release funds to news agency STA after EU pressure
UK Moneyhub picks Slovenia for post-Brexit European base
Slovenia’s dire COVID-19 situation in 4Q20 caused second economic dip
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Turkish opposition leader lawsuit demands one lira from Erdogan, police probe “bald” interior minister posts
Akbank takes over Istanbul's Palladium Atasehir shopping mall
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Armenia prepares to ban Turkish imports
COMMENT: Record high debt levels will slow post-coronavirus recovery, threaten some countries' financial stability, says IIF
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OUTLOOK 2021 Georgia
Georgia’s political kingpin Bidzina Ivanishvili quits politics
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Iran’s navy conducts missile drill while analyst argues Trump even capable of nuclear strike in final days
TEHRAN BLOG: Who’s more credible? Johnson backing Trump’s Nobel chances or Iran applauding arrest warrant for US president?
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OUTLOOK 2021 Kyrgyzstan
Mongolia's winter dzud set to be one of most extreme on record says Red Cross
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Mongolia fears economic damage as country faces up to its first local transmissions of coronavirus
Mongolia in lockdown after suffering first local coronavirus transmissions
OUTLOOK 2021 Tajikistan
China business briefing: Not happy with Kyrgyzstan
OUTLOOK 2021 Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan: How the Grinch stole New Year
Turkmenistan: The dammed united
COMMENT: Uzbekistan is being transformed, but where are the democratic reforms?
OUTLOOK 2021 Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan’s Makro positions itself for growth in a more competitive market
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It's a sort of coronacrisis-inspired version of the swords to ploughshares story. WPA is the Czech Republic’s leading aircraft component supplier, but since the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic hit it has turned its high-tech production skills to producing high-quality, lightweight, nanomask respirators to protect the key health workers on the hospital front line from infection.
The firm is already churning out thousands of masks a month and has started to export them to the Czech Republic’s European neighbours and further afield.
A well-known producer of avionics that worked with the likes of Lufthansa and Air China, in the space of two months the company has retooled to also focus on mask production.
“We formally launched the development of our product back in February, right at the outset, before the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared a global emergency. We had a working prototype by early March, in fact, which we tested before setting up our production and assembly lines. All in all, we were able to get from development to production in the space of two months and fielded our first order in April,” says WPA CEO, Jiri Heckel.
Since the company launched their masks in the Czech Republic earlier this year, it has already sold or donated thousands to hospitals and firefighters alike.
And the masks are likely to remain in high demand as the pandemic is entering a tricky phase. Lockdowns are coming off as governments are desperate to get their populations back to work in an effort to limit the economic damage, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus is still abroad and the danger is of a second wave. High-quality and affordable personal protection equipment (PPE) is one of the most effective ways to prevent a second wave of infections, but at the same time allow people more freedom of movement.
The WPA has already invested €7.5mn into design and production of the nanomask respirator that was created with user comfort in mind. It is fitted with filters, which offer over 99.995% protection against particle penetration, exceeding the FFP3 classification, the highest level of protection a disposable mask can offer, the company says. And they are fully re-usable, sterilisable and eco-friendly.
The company's background in aviation gave it the technology knowhow to produce the masks quickly.
“We have, over the years, worked with some of the world’s largest airlines, including [supporting] Airbus and Boeing with the supply of aircraft parts often in as little a time as 24 hours – when the industry average probably lies between two to three weeks for new or broken parts,” Heckel said. “We relied on the same ethos to start producing and delivering masks.”
The design of the masks surmounts several problems. One is that traditional face shields quickly fog up from breathing. Another is that masks that can provide the high level of filtering are also typically very heavy and uncomfortable to wear.
“We also felt, on a more general note, that there was a need for facemasks to be safer, more comfortable, economical and waste-conscious with filters that are re-usable and fully sterilisable – and we had the capacity and the opportunity to help meet that need,” Heckel said.
With a second wave of infections looming WPA is now ramping up production and expects to be producing 750,000 sets month by August. And all the business mechanics are already in place. Heckel says they can ship an order and have it in the UK in two days or the US within four days if needed.
WPA is responding to the current pandemic but Heckel says he expects the business to be sustained after the immediate coronacrisis is over.
“The pandemic has laid bare the need for organisations and governments to maintain a sufficient supply or stockpile of necessary equipment. Rebuilding and replenishing reserves, when the time is right, may help curtail the impact of future pandemics and prevent fatalities where possible,” says Heckel.
Governments for one are bound to lay in stockpiles of protective face masks after the supply so dramatically collapsed in the early days of the pandemic. WPA is one of many companies that have already successfully registered with the Administration of State Material Reserves of Czech Republic that is part of any effort to build up a European reserve of emergency medical equipment (RescEU). This comes following the European Commission’s decision to create a strategic “rescEU” stockpile of medical equipment to support EU countries in event of another pandemic.
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