Amid the panic and tension brought about by the Wuhan outbreak, Singapore retail outlets recently found themselves unable to restock on a product for which demand has risen tremendously in such a short period of time, face masks.
According to a recent report by Channel News Asia, on Friday (Jan 24), just one day after Singapore confirmed its first reported case of the Wuhan virus, the shelves of some stores had already been cleared of both N95 and surgical masks. Wherever there were masks still available for purchase, there were long queues of people waiting to get their hands on anything that could help prevent themselves from contracting the infamous novel strain of coronavirus, with many even grabbing hand sanitisers and thermometers while they were at it.
As supplies of the masks dropped on the physical shelves of stores, people took to online shops, where they were met with another dilemma. Though they weren’t quite met with the problem of a shortage on stocks, buyers were instead greeted by unbelievably exorbitant prices. According to a report by Mothership, prices for face masks went as high as up to S$288 for a box of 20 N95 masks.
According to a recent article by The Straits Times, on Wednesday (Jan 22), the Ministry of Health disclosed that with regards to the novel coronavirus originating from Wuhan, surgical masks are more appropriate than N95 masks–the reason for this is that surgical masks are better designed to prevent the spread of viruses than N95 masks as they are ergonomically formed to guard both the mouth and nose from large particle droplets, which is a medium known to pass viruses in general. In contrast, the N95 masks are specially-designed respirators that work to filter out particles in the air, which is why it is most commonly used by medical practitioners in hospitals, which are very concentrated areas. N95 masks have also been used for the haze.
The Ministry of Health assures, however, that the Government is aware of the increase in the sales of these items in the wake of the Wuhan outbreak and that should the need arise, the Government will step in to help. The MOH also assured that there are enough masks in stock.