Importing N95 Masks from China, the Shortage of Face Masks
Importing Masks and other PPE
Given critical needs by Australians urgently needing PPE (protective gear, masks, disinfectant and the like) during this COVID-19 pandemic, ChinaDirect Sourcing is finding potential PPE products and suppliers.
If you find your supply chain has been exhausted or have the need to seek a supplier, contact ChinaDirect Sourcing today.
Types of PPE that may be sought include, but are not limited to:
- Reusable gloves (pairs)
- Disposable gloves (boxes) – Occupational, medical examination, surgical
- Protective eyewear
- Face splash guards
- Hazmat Suits
- Surgical masks
- P2/N95 mask disposable
- P2/N95 reusable
- P2/N95 respirator
- Hand soap in a pump bottle (and refills)
- Disinfectant wipes – for surfaces and vehicles
- Alcohol wipes
- Bottled disinfectant
- Hospital-grade disinfectant
- Glen 20 (or similar)
- Boot covers
- Hand sanitiser
The Face Mask Shortage
As the pandemic outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across the world, the health care system in some areas worry as they fail to provide necessary protection and care to those who are affected. The medical professionals and those who are working on the front line in some cases have inadequate protection for themselves. Many of them are reusing the masks, whereas many have made it to the social media requesting for help by using hashtags like #GetMePPE, PPE is the abbreviation of Personal Protective Equipment. Due to a lack of proper safety equipment, many from the medical system have fallen sick, resulting in an increase in the number of people infected with this Coronavirus.
China, being the world’s largest mask-making country, is now producing 220 million face masks a day! The Chinese factory is making twenty times more than what was being made at the beginning of February. But this is not sufficient enough to meet the rising demands of face masks in China as well as in the international markets.
Different types of face masks are being manufactured such as the simple, lightweight masks that people wear to protect themselves from the virus and the heavyweight masks, namely the N95 masks which are usually used by the medical health care workers and those who are working on the front line. Many people across the world have started making their DIY masks at home by using pieces of cloths and rubber bands.
But those who are using DIY homemade face masks should be aware of the fact that these DIY masks do not fall under PPE because their ability to prevent the virus from entering into the body is still not known.
The COVID–19 pandemic outbreak, which started in China is now facing a two-fold challenge – the increasing domestic demand for face masks and the major trouble of increasing global supply of face masks. This massive gap between demand and supply has led to an upsurge in the number of infected people.
What Can Be The Reasons For The Shortage Of Face Masks?
Firstly, the transmission or the spread of Coronavirus occurs when an infected person sneezes or coughs, and the droplets are discharged or through saliva or nose. The virus is discharged and transmitted to another person very easily. Thus, the spreading is rapid, and the entire world is now suffering from it.
To avoid this, it becomes necessary to take precautions such as washing hands regularly with an alcoholic hand sanitizer or with soap and water. Wash them with soap and water. Wearing the face mask has, however, been made mandatory in many parts of the world. This has led to the sudden upsurge in demand for different face masks and especially N95 face masks.
Secondly, the materials required to make these face masks, require precision. According to the statement of Guan Xunze, the chairman of the pharmaceutical group Shengjingtong, situated in the North-eastern part of China, the production of masks is not as easy as we are thinking it to be. The system involved in the production of these face masks is quite significant. It requires the making of ear loops, the packaging and also the metal strip. This metal strip bends alongside the nose bridge and blocks any unwanted microparticles from entering into the respiratory system.
The Government of China has given a particular name to Shengjingtong and called it the mask-making “army” of China. The company is substantially being aided by the Government in the form of massive subsidies and a span of eleven days; they increased their production by more than 10,000 N95 face masks in a day.
Several other factories that used to make automobiles, phones and shoes have now resorted to making face masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment that is required to combat Coronavirus.
Thirdly, the unavailability of manufactured N95 face masks is also a result of unnecessary and excessive hoarding and stockpiling of face masks. Healthcare and medical workers are left with a few or no face masks. They are resorting to the lightweight face masks.
Out of 220 million masks that are being made in a day in China, only 0.6 million are of the N95 standard that is used by the medical, healthcare workers and also the police force.
The demand for face masks and other PPE gears is outpacing their supply, not only in China but also in the rest of the world. This scarcity of face masks will not diminish any time soon, and for that matter, the members of the health department have stopped asking people to discard the face masks after every use and have advised to recycle them whenever possible.
N95 Respirators, Surgical Face Masks
The personal protective equipment such as the N95 face masks and the surgical masks are used to shield from the airborne viruses and to prevent the transmission of the pandemic outbreak of Coronavirus. The N95 respirators are designed in such a way so that it acts as a respiratory protective gear. The ‘N95’ title means that when you breathe in through the masks, it stops at least 95% of the smallest, 0.3 micron-test particles. The filtration capacity of the N95 face masks is more than the surgical or ordinary face masks. Nevertheless, N95 respirators are not the only way to combat the transmission of the virus. It doesn’t entirely remove the risk of infected.
Efforts Made by China to Ramp Up the Production of Face Masks
The production of these face masks requires meticulous precision to meet the usable standards. The face mask is made of a fine mesh of polymer fibres that reduces the entry of harmful infectious airborne particles. This synthetics polymer fibre is called melt-blown fabric. There is a shortage of supply of this component of melt-blown fabric and to meet this deficit, China’s oil and gas company Sinopec invested around $29 million. The investment created a push to initiate ten new production lines of melt-blown fabric on the side of the existing production lines supported by a Yanshan Petrochemical, a Sinopec subsidiary. Yanshan Petrochemical stated in an interview that to assemble and initiate the ten new production lines of melt-blown fabric, the company will require only sixteen days and not six months.
These face masks can be reused. After using the mask, it is advisable to wash it properly and hang it in a dry, airy and clean place. Everyone should keep their masks to themselves and not be in touch with other masks. Masks do not provide full protection but then, ‘something is better than nothing’. While the use of masks is the necessary condition, but it is not sufficient to fight the Coronavirus. Social distancing, regular washing of hands and face and staying safe at home for as long as required, are the other tactics that are needed to combat this virus.
At a minimum, six companies along with a joint venture of a foreign company, have decided to manufacture an extra 14 million masks in a day. According to a report of Chinese brokerage Huaxi Securities, the production of the masks from a technical standpoint will not be difficult for these companies.
Beijing has advised its companies to hold their operations to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, excluding those manufacturing units that produce face masks and other personal protective equipment.
BYD Auto, an automobile subsidiary of the multinational company BYD, in China, has begun its production of masks in Shenzhen. It is producing five million masks in a day at present.
Several other companies, including iPhone manufacturing units, have shifted their line of production to manufacture the masks or the materials that are required to make these masks. The dominance of China in the international markets or the global supply chain due to competitive pricing is the reason why China can fight the deadly virus by itself.
China has decreased the export of PPE (personal protective equipment) by approximately 19% so that they can keep enough for domestic use.
Even though factories around the globe are functioning at their fullest capacities, the supply of different types of face masks still hasn’t met the increasing demand. The companies varying from the state-owned oil producers to phone manufacturers to car makers have started to install their lines of production since the Government has planned to increase the production of masks by approximately 70%. But this is still not sufficient to meet the demand of 1.4 billion people who are in despair in order to protect themselves and their families.
In these desperate times of need, the outbreak of the deadly virus has shaken the entire global economy. Keeping profit margins low, these companies and the Government is running at their full capacity. The pandemic has increased the demand for medical supplies and other protective suits. There is a scarcity of these resources which have now become an essential hot commodity. It requires a global effort of all the countries together to fight against this pandemic outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus.