The debate on the dos and don’ts regarding prevention of coronavirus continues, with experts saying that regular surgical masks will not help in any way. These experts have also encouraged the use of N-95 masks. However, since reports of the need for these masks came out, there has been a significant rise in their price.
The N-95 mask is different from the regular mask as it has a thicker respirator. However, according to an article by Live Science, it is still not recommended for public use, at least not at this point. That's because, in part, it's challenging to put on these masks and wear them for long periods of time. The experts also feel that stocking up on these respirators will result in a shortage, thereby putting medical workers and those who really need the masks at risk.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan was apprised of the situation of the sudden price rise and he said: “If people are taking advantage and misusing this time, then they should be labelled as "black sheep" and a mechanism to punish them should be implemented.”
These 'black sheep' include e-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart. While Apollo’s ecommerce store said that the MRP for 3M masks that had the N-95 filter was Rs 145, Amazon was selling them at Rs 1,400 for two 3M masks. However, when we clicked on the mask page, the price disappeared and it showed that the products were out of stock.
Meanwhile, Flipkart (which was also out of stock) was selling them at Rs 1,983. They had even claimed that they were giving a 42 per cent discount and selling them at Rs 1,150.
Earlier, the World Health Organization has issued a set of directives on when and how to wear a face mask during the coronavirus outbreak. "If you are healthy," they say, "you need to wear a face mask if you're taking care of a patient suspected of or having the coronavirus infection."
The WHO adds that you should wear a mask if you're coughing or sneezing. "Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water."
As demand increases however, there may not be enough masks left for those who really need it. The US Surgeon General, who heads the country's Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, recently took to Twitter to suggest that people stop buying masks.
"They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!" he warned.