Novel coronavirus: Australian GPs raise concerns about shortage of face masksBMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m477 (Published 05 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m477
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The slowly creeping shortage of face masks can only add fuel to fire. The WHO has cautioned healthcare providers about the necessary use of p2/N95 masks or surgical masks to keep infection at bay. However, experts have also suggested that the use of face masks isn't a necessary measure. Other available ideas include effective hygiene practices and keeping a distance from infected. Major suppliers such as pacing med, 3M and BLBM are already sold out.  This indicates the panic amongst communities in preparation for a likely pandemic.
Wuhan being the epicenter of infection, the number of cases reported has skyrocketed over the past few weeks. China is a big production powerhouse and supplier of various medical equipment. However, China itself appealed to the world about the shortage in the production of facemasks and respirators. This must indicate the severity of the issue and something which should worry everyone. It would also make sense that the Chinese production companies divert their strategy to supply for its rapidly growing domestic needs due to the outbreak. In the US, 95% of the surgical masks and 70% of respirators are manufactured overseas.  If the disease further spreads in the US, the supply chain could be affected. Basic economic theory states that when demand is greater than supply, the producers tend to raise prices. Therefore, the price of these surgical masks and respirators have skyrocketed. We are looking at 50 USD for a pack of 10 face masks. However, in Hong Kong, a box of 20 N95 respirator masks cost 90 USD. These developments can force countries to look for alternative manufacturers in their own countries. As a consequence, the prices of such products can hike and further aggravate the situation for the general public.
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2. McKenna M. Amid Coronavirus Fears, a Mask Shortage Could Spread Globally [Internet]. Wired. 2020 [cited 6 February 2020]. Available from: https://www.wired.com/story/amid-coronavirus-fears-a-mask-shortage-could...
Competing interests: No competing interests