The issue of face masks has started to be a commonly-discussed topic, and the reasoning behind that is a pretty understandable one. When we think of the COVID-19 outbreak, a natural reaction for many is to consider preventative measures. And of course, the first thing that comes to mind—at least for general laymen such as myself—is the mighty face mask.
But it’s important to understand that different face masks offer different levels of “protection”. There are your N95 masks, KF94 models, and a host of other options. Some are disposable, some are reusable—but the two are very different masks. And yet, reports have surfaced in Thailand that claim that a vendor in the Saraburi province has been caught for “repackaging and reselling” used face masks.
Apparently, 6 workers were caught as they were ironing face masks to sell as new, with the used masks sold to the workers by a dealer. Another report added that the shop’s owner, Jintana Manwichai, claimed to have sold up to 200,000 of the recycled face masks at 3 baht via Facebook—that comes up to a total of more than RM80,000. Given that the demand for face masks only saw an abrupt increase recently, that’s a short time frame to draw in such a significant amount.
In response, the Thai government has now confirmed that it will control the distribution of face masks in Thailand from now on. A “Mask Management Center” will control the 38 million units that are produced in Thailand on the monthly basis—and a large part of that is due to shortages caused by fears over the coronavirus.
Thailand currently has 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection at the time of writing, with a single fatality recorded. In Malaysia, there are 99 confirmed cases, and no deaths have been reported. In nations more severely affected by the outbreak, face masks are certainly scarce in numbers.
Vice says that the prices of hand sanitisers have shot up to US$149 (about RM626) per bottle, while disinfecting wipes are also available at a premium price of US$58.84 (about RM247). Folks over in China have also complained of recycled face masks.
But despite that, other habits are equally as important as preventative measures. Remember to practice good hygiene—according to a Ministry of Health portal, wear a face mask in crowded places, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap, avoid crowded places, and remember to cover your mouth when coughing. In general, you should also avoid touching wild animals and sick people as well.