Coronavirus has left millions helpless with 564 fatalities and 28,060 people infected worldwide. Scientists are trying to come up with a cure, and develop new ways of treating it effectively, however, the virus does not stall. The virus can spread from person to person without any of them showing any symptoms, which makes the infection rate rather rapid.
All of these facts make wearing a face mask a sensible precaution. In addition to good hygiene, masks are a must-wear in Chinese cities that are affected by the outbreak, and where transmission is ongoing.
However, as the coronavirus gets more widespread, people are struggling to find face masks they can wear.
Just yesterday, Hong Kong was home to a desperate scene where 10,000 people camped overnight in Kowloon for surgical masks after a company said it would release 6,000 boxes of surgical masks for sale.
About 10,000 people, most of whom queued up overnight, are standing in line on Wednesday to buy masks offered by a Hong Kong trading company in Kowloon Bay.— SCMP Hong Kong (@SCMPHongKong) February 5, 2020
Video: SCMP/Alvin Lum. pic.twitter.com/jMrz4Zglt9
Amazon suppliers like PacingMed and BLBM and local stores in China are all sold out. While there is the option of Amazon sellers, they are selling the masks for about $7 per mask, which would have been $1.50 normally.
Chinese politicians have also made controversial comments about the shortage. Ann Chiangmai, a pro-government legislator in Hong Kong, advised people on Facebook that medical masks can be steamed for re-use.
Health services panel chairwoman Ann Chiang, who likes to steam her face masks and wear them again, argues with the Controller of the Centre for Health Protection when he tells her masks should only be used once #HongKong— RTHK English News (@rthk_enews) January 30, 2020
Full story: https://t.co/KOr9iQBBNI pic.twitter.com/wmNyU9IH0Y
It should be noted that steaming a surgical mask will destroy the structure which makes them one-use-only. You should never steam your medical masks.
Government turning a blind eye to those in need and misinforming, and people trying to take advantage of people in-need has made Hongkongers lose hope and trust. With a serious shortage of masks, some families are sharing masks and using the same ones repeatedly. In an effort to take the matters into their hands, people are trying to set up their own mask production line to meet local demand.
On the 4th of February, a Chinese businessman Sik Hon made a Facebook post announcing that they are preparing to take the mask production into his hands and asked for the public's help.
The approximate translation is as follows:
“... I am a businessman, and I should safeguard Minkang with commercial ability. After some thought and research, we decided to go all out to develop a local mask production line. The purpose of our production is to try our best to meet the local short-term surge in demand and future long-term demand. ...
- Although this is a business practice, because it's a project on people's health, we do our best to get government support
- Already approached the government's Economic and Trade Bureau, Productivity Promotion Bureau, and received support from relevant departments and other independents
- Have a preliminary grasp of purchasing production equipment and raw materials
- Looking for production plant
- Have contacted other individuals/groups in Hong Kong who are interested in production, meet and negotiate/coordinate within days
- Do you have any friends who have experience in producing surgical masks?
- We have invested our funds; we are looking for a shareholder who is willing to invest HKD 2M
- Many friends are supportive, we may start crowdfunding. Details will be announced within the day. ...”
With 17K likes and 5,9K shares on Facebook, the public responded immediately.
The approximate translation is as follows:
"... Thank you for your support. We received hundreds of emails and thousands of messages overnight. In addition to your support and blessings, there is also a lot of practical and operational information. It can take a day to get yourself up to speed and learn.
- I have received many friendly and know-how emails. I will contact you today to learn from you and even invite you to join the army.
- Machinery, materials, construction, etc. are all in the inquiry and feasibility study
- When the plan is really feasible, the next part will build a factory
- Of course, I hope that the sooner the better, we have to hurry
Finance, investment, crowdfunding
- I still pay my own bootstrap
- Many institutional investors have approached us, but we are not ready for the investor deck
- We are not very rich, but it is okay now. At the same time, we do not fight "karate", we really hope to attract investment when there is real development
- We hope to establish a perfect mechanism and start crowdfunding / pre-sale when the success rate is higher than 75%. ...”
Sik Hon stated that with raw materials and machines obtained, they are looking for people with experience in manufacturing surgical masks. For those who want to help, they can contact Hon's email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
In times such as this, it is important for people to support each other. Wearing masks is an important part of fighting with viruses, and people all over can support civil initiatives in the circumstances where the governments fall short.