The face mask has become the most visible symbol of the deadly coronavirus outbreak both in China and elsewhere. And according to reports, it is now increasingly becoming a prized possession across Asia as its demand by concerned citizens of the region to protect themselves from the coronavirus infection exceeds supply.
There is virtually a global race to fill the shortage as pharmacies and supermarkets around the world are fast running out of such masks because of a huge surge in its demand. This scarcity has also brought to light the dependence on manufacturing companies based in China for production of such masks art affordable costs.
A gun-toting cross-continental logistics battle resulted out a recent effort by one fintech entrepreneur to secure masks for his Hong Kong staff which illustrates the frenzy demand of the masks. According to a report published on its website by Channel News Asia, the firm owner Ovidiu Olea had to hire an armed escort to transport the shipment to the airport after its order for 500,000 masks placed with a company in from South Africa arrived via flight.
“This started as me trying to get masks for my team and escalated very quickly,” he said.
One of the reasons for this shortage is that while the mask is in very high demand in China because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus there, almost 50 per cent of the masks are also manufactured in China. While some of the factories that were closed down since the Lunar New Year in China have reopened, purchasing a virus protecting face mask is still a big challenge in the country.
“We’ve been out of stock for a long time … I don’t know where you can find a mask,” said a staff member at Kang Baixin Pharmacy in Beijing, one of five chemists in the capital that said they had sold out, reported Channel News Asia.
Outside of China, shortage of such masks have also been witnessed in Europe and the United States with a number of pharmacies putting up sold-out signs for the masks and where some hardware stores have put a cap on the number of industrial respirators that can be sold to the people who want to purchase them to be sent to their family members and friends in Asian countries.
Many of the Chinese cities, including Wuhan – the epicenter of the coronavirus, as well as the commercial capital Shanghai, have made it mandatory for people to wear masks while in public. Even Chinese President Xi Jinping was seen wearing a surgical mask last week while visiting a hospital in Beijing.
Stocks of masks are insufficient for its needs, admitted Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization.
“We call on countries and companies to work with the WHO to ensure fair and rational use of supplies and the rebalancing of the market,” he said earlier this month.
And it is expected that the demand for the masks will continue because of the continuity in the number of people being infected.
(Adapted from CNA.com)