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Watch | Coronavirus: Can masks protect you?

The world is running out of masks and other protective equipment against the novel coronavirus, the World Health Organization chief warned on February 7.

“The world is facing a chronic shortage of personal protective equipment,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. He also said countries must not hold back clinical data on confirmed cases of virus.

“What China urgently needs at present are medical masks, protective suits, and safety goggles,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press briefing.

Authorities in provinces that are home to more than 300 million people — including Guangdong, the country’s most populous — have ordered everyone to wear masks in public in an effort to contain the virus.

But factories capable of producing around 20 million masks a day are only operating at between 60 and 70% of capacity, industry department spokesman Tian Yulong said, adding that supply and demand remained in “tight equilibrium” as a result of the Lunar New Year break.

But face masks are not designed to filter small airborne particles. The N95 respirator is a specialized mask that is said to be more effective in filtering such particles. It is named so because it ostensibly blocks at least 95 per cent of very small airborne particles. The respirator is thicker than a face mask because of which it is challenging to put on and to wear them for long periods of time. Special training on how to properly fit these respirators around the nose, cheeks and chin are given to hospital staff.

Only N95 respirators that are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) must be used. An N95 respirator cannot be cleaned or disinfected. All FDA-cleared N95 respirators are labeled as "single use", disposable devices. Although the respirators are available online, they are not recommended for common use in countries like India yet.

Panic over the novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) has resulted in the short supply of N95 masks in Kerala.

The price of a N95 mask, that was earlier sold at Rs. 100 to Rs. 120, has sky-rocketed.

- with inputs from PTI and AFP

Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 9:15:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/coronavirus-can-masks-protect-you/article30769496.ece

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