In early February, Kent Cai Mingdong, a resident of Ningbo City, eastern China, scoured local Indonesian pharmacies for medical masks as much as possible. He sent the masks to health professionals and frontline health workers in his home town, where a shortage of protective equipment was exacerbating the fight against Coronavirus.
So far, Cai has traveled to more than 15 cities and collected at least 200,000 masks, part of which he sent Chinese tourists he met at major airports in Indonesia to bring home.
Mr. Cai, the owner of Zhejiang Newway Cultural Development Company, a company that studies live education and broadcast, said: “I think Indonesia, with its large population, a large number of skilled workers, they will have a larger supply of masks. ”
The advantage of dominating China’s global supply chain, due to competitive prices, has turned against them. The country is currently suffering the most damage – in the production of medical masks. The deficiency continues to grow as the corona virus continues to spread throughout the country and around the world.
Demand for masks has risen sharply in recent weeks, depleting not only China’s stockpiles, but also elsewhere, from Bangkok to Boston. Currently, China has been forced to wear masks in public areas in many cities.
China, which accounts for about half of the world’s mask production, is trying to procure from excess supply from abroad, both through official diplomatic channels and indirect buyers like Cai.
But doctors and nurses, including the frontline guards in the virus epidemic center in Wuhan, still face a shortage of medical protective equipment, especially the N95 mask that is capable of better protection.
The new strain of Corona Virus (COVID-19), which has taken the lives of more people than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003, is thought to be spread primarily through the epidemic of coughing, sneezing or continuing. contact with an infected surface.
As a result, masks have become a sought-after item in China. There is no official estimate of the supply gap, but it is clear that demand for masks will continue to increase sharply in the coming weeks. Across the country, local governments encourage business owners and businesses to provide enough masks for their employees as a prerequisite to restarting the manufacturing labor apparatus.
Cong Liang, a NDRC leader, said at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday that mask manufacturers in China were currently operating at 76% capacity, producing every day 15, 2 million masks. However, according to Chinese media reports, information from mainland mask manufacturers shows that daily demand is estimated to be around 50 to 60 million units during the translation period.
China can only produce 200,000 N95 masks a day because they require more sophisticated technology and materials to produce. To address the shortage, the Chinese government has adopted a wartime rationing policy for mask sales to ensure adequate supply for health workers, when burglary incidents are in place. , counterfeiting and homemade masks increased.
But no matter how great China’s face mask production capacity is, problem This has also spread globally.
Mike Bowen, co-founder and vice president of US mask maker Prestige Ameritech predicts that if China has been plagued by pandemics or epidemics for years, other countries will also be in trouble. difficult, because they own the world’s main source of masks: “Chinese prices are so cheap that people around the world want to buy their goods. But people still haven’t thought of whether they should.” purchase these products during a pandemic in China “.
Bowen said Texas-based Prestige Ameritech produced 87% of masks for the US market in the 1990s, until Chinese supplies were cheaper – now accounting for half of the total US supply – that were hit the market.
Now, in an unexpected turn, his company has shipped masks to China for the first time – 1 million units in the past two weeks.
According to official data, China, which produced 5 billion masks last year, began to increase imports from around the world. Last week, the Indonesian government said China had placed large orders, equivalent to the three-month production volume from the Southeast Asian nation, according to local media reports.
Other Asian manufacturers in South Korea and Vietnam have complained that China has stopped exporting materials and equipment to make masks, disrupting production.
According to the Information and Industry Development Center, MIIT’s research unit, there are at least 50 Chinese suppliers of raw materials and equipment for making masks and more than 140 manufacturers of medical protective equipment.
The sudden demand and government health requirements prompted many companies to start producing their own masks. Foxconn, the electronics giant that assembles Apple’s iPhone in Taiwan-China, has begun manufacturing masks for its employees and aims to increase production to 2 million units a day by the end of the month.
Hongdou Fashion Group and car maker SAIC-GM-Wuling, a joint venture between US automaker General Motors and two Chinese partners, have also started manufacturing their own masks.
But despite the medical scramble, scientists say there is no scientific evidence that wearing a mask will prevent virus infection.
“The data show that the use of a simple medical mask by everyone in the community is minimal, so we cannot say that it is not useful, but there is no exact data yet. “masking can be an effective preventive measure,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
He said, “Medical masks are not designed to prevent viruses from entering the mask; they are actually designed to be operated on, to prevent what is in the surgeon’s nose or mouth from entering the area. surgery”.
However, Schaffner said wearing a mask could give an individual a sense of security while the disease is breaking out without a vaccine. “And that’s very important, because whether in Hong Kong, mainland China or the United States, we all have a common concern about the Corona virus disease,” he added.