Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020, the pandemic has spread quickly around the world to 188 countries and regions. Against this background, personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and sanitising products, which are essential for people to maintain limited social activities, are in short supply due to massively increased demand, coupled with production suspension and supply chain disruption.
As economic and social activities all over the world have come to a halt for months on end, there is an urgent need to re-open the economy, but the volatile pandemic situation has cast a shadow over economic recovery. Infection prevention and control has become the prerequisite for promoting and restarting social and economic interaction.
Today, infection prevention has become the new normal. In order to adapt to this new way of life, apart from sufficient supplies of PPE, intelligent sanitizing solutions which can effectively prevent the re-emergence of Covid-19 are also indispensable. In view of this, the HKTDC Research interviewed Gallen Tam, Co-Founder of Aqua Pro+Tech, a local intelligent disinfection products company, to find out how he pushed forward the transformation of his company amid the pandemic to expand its clientele from retail consumers to corporations and public venues by providing a full range of sanitizing solutions according to customers specific needs.
Having gone through SARS in 2003, Hong Kong resident in general were highly aware of public health well before the Covid-19 outbreak, particularly parents and pet owners. However, many protective products on the market which claim to have sanitising effect actually contain harmful chemicals that can not only cause skin irritation, but also pose potential hazard to humans if used on a long term basis. In order to address these issues, Tam and his two business partners founded Aqua Pro+Tech in 2019 to embark on developing eco-friendly protective products that are colourless, odourless, safe and non-toxic and are thus most suitable for babies, pregnant women and people with skin allergies.
During the year-long research and development, Aqua Pro+Tech experimented with a new technology which was proven to be effective in killing 99.99% bacteria and viruses. Tam said: “Using advanced technology from Japan, we tested and modified our formula in local laboratories. After numerous attempts and months of improvement, we finally succeeded in producing sanitising products that can effectively kill viruses and bacteria instantly by breaking up their cell membranes and deactivating their protease, RNA and DNA with the presence of abundant hydroxide ion.”
International certifications obtained by Aqua Pro+Tech products.
Shortly after Aqua Pro-Tech launched its products, Covid-19 hit Hong Kong and spread across the world. Hence, the companys products made a splash in the Hong Kong market. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, PPE such as face masks and other sanitising products have become essential daily necessities for people to maintain limited social activities. It is therefore no surprise that consumers are increasingly demanding of product quality and reliability. In view of this and in a move to boost consumer confidence in its products, Aqua Pro+Tech decided to accelerate its pace of applying for international safety standards certification and accreditation, including EN14476 and EN1276 of the EU, ASTM E-1052 and E-2315 of the US, and OECD 439.
Tam said: “The threat of Covid-19 has led to the mushrooming of sanitising products on the market. Many of these products claim they contain ingredients that are endorsed by the World Health Organisation or other public health organisations as effective in killing the coronavirus. Yet, only a few of them have obtained safety standards certification from international authorities. As a matter of fact, applying for such certification is both time-consuming and costly.
“Take our products as an example. We applied for EU standards certification in an early stage but the testing took quite a long time and the certification procedures were very stringent, requiring a lot of time and effort on our part. Nevertheless, obtaining international standards and certifications not only helps consumers recognise the effectiveness of our products on the market, but can also build a positive brand image for these products. At the same time, we also passed tests performed by SGS proving that our products are free of methanol and heavy metals, testifying to the fact that Aqua Pro+Tech disinfection products are safe and contain no harmful chemicals.”
Partner to Restart Business
As economic and social activities in many countries and regions around the world have ground to a halt for months, there are urgent calls for reopening. In an effort to restart the economy and normal social activities in a safe manner, governments and companies around the world have been eagerly searching for intelligent sanitising solutions to prevent the re-emergence of the pandemic.
Tam saw the current pandemic as more dangerous than previous outbreaks, saying: “Covid-19 is more serious than SARS in 2003 and its impact is far and wide. To reactivate economic and social activities fully, public health authorities, as well as businesses and organisations of all sizes, must proactively implement all-round health measures. This must be done in premises such as offices, schools, shopping malls and restaurants in order to lower the chance of resurgence of the virus and reduce the negative impact on various sectors.”
Currently, the government and many businesses provide hand sanitisers, but Tam reckoned that such preventive measures are still inadequate and should be complemented by other facilities. He said: “If any staff or customers who have unfortunately caught Covid-19 visit an indoor public place it greatly increases the risk of cross-infection. Since general sanitising products are only good for hands and objects, may contain harmful chemicals or allergy-inducing substances such as alcohol or other ingredients, and may contaminate clothing, they are therefore not suitable for sanitising the whole body. As our products are colourless, odourless and non-toxic, they can complement other protective disinfection measures to pave the way for the long-awaited full resumption of production, business and school.”
Apart from measures preventing the re-emergence of the coronavirus, many enterprises have also devised a series of solutions to deal with the volatile pandemic situation. Tam said: “If, unfortunately, any staff are infected, the company has to implement a series of contingency measures. Apart from supporting the infected staff, the company also has to perform the duty of thoroughly cleansing and disinfecting the office in order to protect the rest of the employees.
“These necessary measures inevitably affect the operation of the company. In light of this, the management must prepare an inter-departmental contingency plan in advance so as to mitigate any negative impact.
“Take the work of cleansing and disinfecting the office for example. The full range of anti-virus disinfection products and equipment offered by our company can not only protect staff safety effectively, but can also help expedite the resumption of work and production.”
Given the volatile pandemic situation, Tam and his R&D and marketing team reckoned that Aqua Pro+Tech should, in addition to promoting retail business to parents and pet owners, strengthen efforts in supporting clients in both the public and private sectors to help them re-open activities amid Covid-19. This will not only help society in containing the virus and preventing its resurgence, but will also further propel the long-term development of the companys products and brand.
As virus prevention and control has now become the new normal, in order to help businesses and the general public adapt to the new way of life, Aqua Pro+Tech has recently launched various smart sanitising solutions. Among these, the flagship product launched in May is the multi-purpose Intelligent Disinfection Station, which offers disinfection with full body coverage and temperature monitoring.
Tam said: “Our intelligent disinfection station is a good partner helping businesses restart. As economic activities around the globe gradually re-open, venues where this intelligent disinfection station proves to be useful should be able to extend from schools, care homes, entertainment establishments and offices to large shopping malls, grade A commercial buildings and public transport interchanges, such as bus terminals. In the days to come, following the relaxation of entry and exit restrictions, it can be expected that it could further extend to places with high traffic flows such as exhibition venues, cruise terminals and airports.
“Amid Covid-19, Aqua Pro+Techs smart sanitising products are popular with corporate clients and have registered considerable sales growth in the local retail market. The eco-friendly features of our products, such as not containing any alcohol, harmful chemicals or allergy-inducing preservatives, have also won favour with an increasing number of overseas buyers. At present, we have authorised an environmental technology company to act as Aqua Pro-Techs sole agent in the Macao market. We are also negotiating with companies in Australia, Canada and Malaysia which are interested in acting as our sole agent in their respective countries.”