The importance of face masks and their use in this current pandemic cannot be overemphasized. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, it was a habit found only among health personnel, miners, and other construction workers. To say that it is surprising that it is now an essential part of our lives will be an understatement.
Nations of the world are trying their best to ensure that the cases of victims of this deadly virus are reduced. Because of this, they have put in place regulations and sanctions to ensure that their citizens comply with the prescribed protective measures from health regulating agencies.
Measures recommended by health regulating agencies such as World Health Organisation (WHO), the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), and Food and Drug Agencies (FDA) includes wearing of face masks especially in the public, daily and frequent handwashing with soap and water or hand sanitizing with hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percents of alcohol, physical or social distancing. The agencies clearly state that complying with these safety measures as a whole will help curtail the spread of the deadly virus.
In some countries, there are sanctions in place to punish anyone who chooses not to wear facemasks in the public with the payment of a fine. Other countries have put in place measures to motivate the wearing of the masks like giving out masks free of charge to citizens, wearing face masks before boarding public transport, and many more.
Production of facemasks
Before the advent of the coronavirus, China was responsible for making over half of the world’s mask. Apart from the part that the country seeks to increase its production capacity, its share of production is expected to climb in the months to come. Also, the global market for disposable masks is set to increase in values in the coming years at a tremendous rate.
After the outbreak of the virus, other countries began to step up production to meet up with the demand of their population. Also, other domestic companies who are initially not masks-producers have stepped in to help with production. For example, the popular carmaker BMW has said it will produce millions of masks to protect its staff and others against the virus.
Also, around the world, entrepreneurs have dived into the mask production business. But, most of these masks produced are not all meeting up with the set quality of International standards. This has made some countries like the United States, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands to reject the importation of some sets of facemasks.
At the start of the outbreak, there were estimates from different agencies and countries as to the volume of masks that will be needed. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 89 million masks are going to be needed globally every month as long as the coronavirus pandemic lingers as well as 76 million examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles and face visors.
Also, the United States authorities estimated that the country is going to need 300 million facemasks to cope with the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Because of this domestic mask producing companies were encouraged to step up their production capacities to meet up.
Similarly, daily production of all types of face masks increased tremendously from about 10 million to 115 million in March 2020 alone and the production rates have since expanded 12 times. This shows that the country is doing all it can to make sure it meets up with the demand of its citizens.
Despite this production, the supply chain is often riddled with a high level of mismanagement and misrepresentation. Some countries are queuing to get their supply batch but were unable to because of these problems. Also, demand for face masks continues to rise which has made authorities to come up with strategies such as mask reuse to deal with the disparity within supply and demand.
What can be done to help with the facemask shortage?
Recently, the World Health Organisations (WHO) has warned that there is a severe disruption in the global supply of personal protective equipment (WHO) which can be majorly attributed to increasing demand, panic buying, hoarding, and misuse and this is putting the lives of people at risk of contracting the deadly virus.
The organization also said since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the prices of facemasks have surged all around the world with surgical masks increasing in six-folds, N95 respirators in three folds, and gowns being doubled. This has also made purchasing a little bit difficult. At the peak of it are the insecure supply chains. Some of the time, getting supplies delivered can take months, and the highest portion of the time, markets are being manipulated and the available stocks are often sold to the highest bidder.
To help with this the organization has called for rational and appropriate use of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) especially in health care settings and the effective management of the supply chains. Also, the WHO is working together with governments, industries, and the Pandemic Supply Chain Network to increase production and secure allocations to developing and at-risk countries.
Also, production companies are advised to increase production by 40 percent and that Governments should develop incentives for the production industry to ramp up production which includes easing restrictions on export and proper distribution of PPE.
Are there donation centers available?
To help out with the shortage of facemasks all over, it is advised that face masks such as clothing masks, surgical masks, or N95 masks be donated to hospitals, health care institutions, and other facilities that can distribute and allocate these masks to the appropriate quarters.
These facemasks might be self-produced, an organization made, or purchased from approved companies. The donations and support will make sure that these important protective gadgets are made available to the populations that are dire in need of them.
There are a lot of centers all over the world where mask donations are needed. These include hospitals, health centers, community clinics, and many more. Donations can be done physically or via electronic means. It is better advised to seek out centers that are really in need of these masks. This can be done by going through reviews, recommendations of people, government authorities, and renowned organizations.
For example, in the United States, enquiries can be made to the American Hospital Association (AHA) to find out how your donations can be carried out. The association is also in contact with manufacturers and the business community. Sometimes, the association helps to connect manufacturers with hospitals, clinics, and health systems that need protective gadgets.
There is much to be done to curtail the spread of the virus and this involves collaboration from all parties concerned. Individuals, manufacturers, and organizations need to work together to fight against the spread of the deadly virus. Try and give your contributions today which might be in the form of donations, it will go a long way in helping others in need.