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Why is there a shortage of hygiene face masks?

28th February 2020

Coronavirus is spreading quickly with Italy now the place with the most cases outside of Asia, Nigeria reporting their first confirmed case and the total number of cases in the UK is now up to 19. So naturally, people are looking to protect themselves in any way that they can with many hoping to get their hands on a medical face mask.

And yet a trip to your local pharmacy or a quick online search will throw up very little, with most places being out of stock. But why is that?

Why is there a shortage of medical face masks?

The simple answer is that China (where the Wuhan coronavirus originated) is the world’s biggest producer of them. Normal daily capacity of medical masks is 20 million pieces, while the capacity for the more advanced FFP2/N95 masks is normally around 200,000 pieces (given the more complex technology and materials used).

However, that supply is based on working to a normal demand. But with demand through the roof and mask makers only operating at around 76 percent capacity, that is creating a huge shortfall.

China’s demand alone is at around 50 to 60 million masks per day, and that’s not even beginning to count the demand around the rest of the world. In fact, when an industrial equipment shop in Italy started selling the masks, it had sold more than 500 in the first 30 minutes of opening!

Thankfully, here at UK Meds, we have various face masks in stock including FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 in styles such as folded, moulded and valved. With next day shipping available and no limit on how many you can buy, we’re expecting stock to go quickly so make sure you get yours before they run out! Shop hygiene face masks now.

Do face masks help to prevent COVID-19?

Because the virus is so new, health and medical experts are still working to understand it better. Some people doubt the effectiveness of wearing face masks but the WHO have released guidance recommending their use. Read more about how to protect against coronavirus in our previous blog post.

Face masks can contribute towards protecting yourself against COVID-19 because the virus is spread through infected droplets of saliva or mucus that are released when a person coughs or sneezes. They are then inhaled by other people who become infected with coronavirus too. Whereas if you are wearing a face mask, it’s much harder to inhale these infected droplets.

It’s important to note that face masks do not guarantee 100% protection from viruses though and you should still follow best hygiene practises (like hand washing). If you do start to show symptoms (whether you’ve been wearing a mask or not) you should seek medical help by calling 111 (do not go into your local GP surgery or hospital).

Which medical face mask is best?

There are various different kinds of face masks and understanding them and their protection can be confusing, since it’s likely that most people here in the UK have never had an interest in buying one before.

Standard disposable face masks offer some protection but aren’t considered respirator masks because the material is not advanced enough. In general, a respirator mask is more advisable.

Respirator face masks are graded as either FFP1, FFP2 or FFP3. FFP1 offers the lowest protection but can still be used to shield the respiratory system. It’s best to get a moulded shape so that it provides a closer seal to the skin, given the lower grade fabric.

FFP2 (N95 equivalent) offers higher protection than FFP1 and meets the guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO). They are recommended for use during outbreaks of SARS, Avian Flu and Coronavirus.

FFP3 provides the most respiratory protection and can even be used as an Asbestos mask. They are often worn by medical professionals when handling hazardous chemicals (such as pharmaceutical items) because they protect against liquid and solid aerosols in concentrations up to 50x OEL or 20x APF. Current NHS guidelines stipulate FFP3 face masks for virus and bacterial infection control.