Covid-19 Outbreak Causes Looming Global Mask Shortage As Increased Demand Depletes Stock

In a recent report by The Guardian, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said that “widespread inappropriate use” of masks is jeopardising the global fight against Covid-19.

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Stockpiling of personal protective equipment (PPE) has caused global shortages, and the lack of supply is hitting frontline healthcare workers the hardest.

Severe mask shortage due to Covid-19

Dr Tedros stated that supply delays are likely to take between four to six months, as demand has increased a hundredfold, and prices are up to 20 times higher, reported The Guardian.

Global stock and supply disruptions are now preventing frontline workers from receiving enough supplies. WHO estimates their needs at 7-10% of the global supply. At present, there is insufficient stock of masks and respirators to meet WHO’s needs.

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In particular, opportunists and hoarders were blamed for supply disruptions. Dr Michael Ryan, executive director for emergencies with WHO, reiterated that masks don’t necessarily keep you safer – they merely prevent you from infecting others.

He also said:

If you see the normal civilian market flooded with N95 type masks and you see doctors and nurses who don’t have those, there is a problem.

China responsible for over half of global supply

China is the world’s leading mask distributor, but the health crisis there has complicated supplies.

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Mike Bowen, spokesman of the Secure Mask Supply Association, said they wish to guarantee the stable supply of American-made masks during times of crisis. He told the South China Morning Post (SCMP):

For years, I’ve predicted that if China gets into trouble with a pandemic or an outbreak, that since they own the world’s mask supply, it’ll be problematic for other countries.

Shortfalls rampant within China even as they import from overseas

Looking at China’s domestic situation, it’s not hard to see why global supplies are so badly disrupted.

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China is buying up excess mask stocks all over the world, with even individual citizens going from pharmacy to pharmacy to buy whatever they can get their hands on. Despite this, there are still massive shortages in Wuhan among healthcare workers fighting Covid-19.

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In a strange twist of irony, China has begun placing large orders for masks with other countries. Taiwan recently reported that it’s on track to become the world’s second-highest mask producer.

Meanwhile, other countries in the region have complained about China halting the export of mask-making materials and equipment. Private companies have had to resort to manufacturing their own masks for staff.

According to The Guardian, high demands are causing 4 to 6-month delays in the supply of masks and PPEs.

Leave masks for healthcare workers and the sick

Singapore may still have enough stocks for healthcare workers – the ones who need masks the most. But if the situation worsens, they may be at further risk.

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So leave the masks only for when you’re unwell – each mask you use for “protection” is a mask that’s not going to frontline staff.

Featured image adapted from China Daily.