Macau Handed Out 20 Million Surgical Face Masks To Combat Supply Shortage In Local Pharmacies
Today is the day we can start collecting face masks at our nearest RCs. But the rush has already started elsewhere almost a week ago.
As shelves of masks and hand sanitisers are wiped clean at pharmacies, it’s evident we’re ready to do what we can to protect ourselves from the Wuhan virus.
Some 2,000km away, Macau looks prepared to do the same. A week ago, the major resort city made the news when its health authorities distributed 20 million face masks to citizens via pharmacies.
They also swiftly enforced sales restriction on masks, limiting them to only 10 per person.
Macau authorities were quickly commended for putting these measures in place within a short time — so much so that South China Morning Post wrote an article to give them credit.
Let’s look at how Macau – a city of around 645,000 people – swiftly braced themselves to confront a potential outbreak on their shores.
Face masks supply in Macau pharmacies depleted after 1st case
On 22 Jan, Macau confirmed its first case of the highly infectious coronavirus from Wuhan. Once news broke, citizens quickly made a beeline for pharmacies to stock up on surgical masks.
Most of Macau’s pharmacies reported shortages of the precious surgical item within hours, according to Macau Daily Times.
That’s not all. No thanks to drastically increasing demand and decreased supply, citizens had to grapple with highly inflated prices — a situation that sounds all too familiar to those of us in Singapore.
As of 22 Jan afternoon, Macau’s Health Bureau reported that only 1 out of 8 masks distributors in the city still had stock.
20 million stockpiled masks ready for distribution
Once this happened, health authorities in Macau quickly stepped in. They started distributing some 20 million stockpiled masks to around 50 pharmacies.
Citizens were told that they could collect them by 24 Jan, which was 2 days after.
Macau Daily Times reports that the masks were only supplied to local residents. Those eligible would have to show their Macau identification card, before getting to buy up to 10 masks at a time.
Only after 10 days can the holder of the same identification card buy masks again.
Authorities stressed that this restriction of sale was to ensure that Macau citizens could have access to ample supply of masks.
Singaporeans entitled to 4 masks per household
Closer to home, Singapore government announced on 30 Jan that each household will get a pack of 4 surgical masks.
Image by MS News reader
While a handful expressed thankfulness, there were those who criticised the move. They cited concerns that such minuscule supplies wouldn’t suffice.
This netizen thinks that there may not be enough supply of face masks in the government’s stockpile for all citizens.
Similarly, there are those who wonder how families with more than 4 people are to cope, with only 4 masks per household.
Another netizen is also worried about the possibility of facing crowds, given the nature of a virus outbreak. He also wonders why the masks couldn’t be mailed to residents instead.
Masks are only for wearing when you’re sick
If you’ve been wondering the same thing, Dr Janil Puthucheary – Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information – clarified this recently in an interview with Channel NewsAsia (CNA).
He said the purpose of the masks are so that when you’re sick and need to see a doctor, you can wear a mask during your journey to the clinic.
If you go to see a doctor or a polyclinic, you would be given another mask, or as many masks as you need.
Dr Janil also stressed that authorities want to send the message — if you’re well, you don’t need to use the mask. As for the 4 masks to be collected, he shared,
We’re putting that mask in your hand so you don’t need to join those long queues to stock up. When you need it, it’s there.
You can watch the interview here in full.
Keep your masks safe, keep yourself clean
Although different cities handle the distribution of face masks differently, what’s also important is that we take precautions of our own.
This can be done by practising good hygiene and avoid going into crowds unnecessarily.
Once you’ve collected your masks between 1-9 Feb, keep it safe and only use it when necessary.
That being said, we hope that the government can eventually roll out their stockpile of masks to pharmacies, so citizens can get their hands on them for their own sense of security.
It’s also more important that authorities can clamp down on profiteering in this time of need, so that Singaporeans can buy boxes of masks & sanitisers at the usual market rate — as they should.
In the meantime, always wash your hands with soap, and keep clean.
Featured image adapted from AFP via South China Morning Post.