Coronavirus: here’s what you need to know about face masks

masks

(Jonathan J. Castellon, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Due to COVID-19, face masks are in high demand across the globe.
  • Over 50 countries have made mask-wearing in public mandatory.
  • China still makes most masks, but new makers are entering the market.

The humble face mask has become sought after across the globe.

Supplies of masks have run low as coronavirus has spread, and fashion houses and carmakers are among the companies that have started making them to protect health workers and others as restrictions begin to ease in many places.

 

Many governments are making the wearing of masks a precondition for lifting lockdowns, allowing people to return to shops, offices and factories. And with any potential vaccine many months away, billions more masks are going to be needed.

As a result, prices are soaring. Basic surgical masks that until last year cost a few cents are now retailing at as much as $1.25 each in some places and prices of respirator-grade N95 masks, which stop at least 95% of particles, have been reported as high as $25.

As coronavirus continues to claim lives across the globe, here’s what you need to know about face masks.

masks WHO advice face masks PPE personal protective equipment Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
This is how prevalent mask wearing is around the world.
Image: Statista

What does the World Health Organization say about masks?

The World Health Organization says if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19. The WHO also advises people to wear one if they are coughing and sneezing, and says they are only effective if combined with frequent handwashing.

Official advice varies from country to country. The UK government, for example, advises wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible, like on public transport.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), similarly, recommends wearing masks in places where social distancing is not possible, such as shops, to slow the spread of the virus. Like the UK, it advocates simple cloth face coverings and says surgical masks should be reserved for health workers.

Where are masks compulsory?

More than 50 countries are reported to have made it compulsory to wear a face mask in public places, including Venezuela and Vietnam, which were among the first to act. The Czech Republic was the first European nation to mandate masks, on 18 March.

Some airlines, including American, Lufthansa, and United, have announced that face masks will be compulsory in terminals as well on flights. Eurostar, which operates train services between England and France, also requires passengers to wear masks.

Many countries impose fines for failing wear masks and some are distributing them free. In France, failure to wear a mask on public transport can incur a fine of up to $145.

Where are the world’s masks being made?

Last year, China made just over half of the world’s masks. This year, the share is expected to climb to 85%. The global market for disposable masks was worth $75 billion in the first quarter of this year and is expected to grow at a rate of over 50% for the next seven years.

Since the pandemic started, many companies have started producing masks, including carmaker BMW, which has said it will produce millions of masks to protect its staff and other people against the virus.

Around the world, entrepreneurs have started making masks, but not all are of sufficient quality to meet international standards. The United States, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey have all rejected imported batches on quality grounds.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

How many masks are needed? And how many are being produced?

The WHO estimates 89 million medical masks are needed globally every month while the coronavirus pandemic lasts, together with 76 million examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles and face visors.

At the start of the outbreak, US officials estimated that the country needed 300 million face masks to cope with COVID-19 in 2020. Since then, US manufacturer 3M, which made 550 million masks in 2019, has said it will produce 2 billion this year at plants around the world.

In February, China’s daily production of all types of masks soared from around 10 million to 115 million by the end of that month, and production has expanded 12-fold since the pandemic started.

Supplies of masks have been disrupted by countries banning exports or requisitioning supplies within their borders and shortages of specialist fabrics used to make the more advanced types of respirator masks.

What types of face masks are being used?

Manufacturers across the world are producing three types of mask – surgical masks, respirators and cloth face coverings.

Surgical masks are designed to protect patients from infection during surgery, for example if a doctor coughs in an operating theatre. Respirators, on the other hand, filter air passing in and out of the mask.

Cloth face coverings, including home-made masks, are recommended by the CDC as they help stop the wearer from spreading infection. But COVID-19 is spread by micro-droplets emitted when breathing which can enter the body through the eyes and mouth.

To combat micro-droplets, health workers wear visors for eye protection. The WHO says the best way to avoid infection is to wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face. A mask may help you stop spreading the virus but hygiene is the key to avoiding getting it, it says.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Syria: Civilians caught in crossfire, UN refugee chief urges Jordan to open its border

Miguel Arias Cañete European Commission

EU should invest more in climate and not sit back on its laurels and watch

Partner countries get €3bn in loans to prop up economies affected by pandemic

Here are five tips to make your message clear in a crowded world

Autonomous vehicles could clog city centres: a lesson from Boston

Banks launch green charter to help shipping reduce its carbon footprint

What is a ‘vaccine passport’ and will you need one the next time you travel?

Migrants, asylum seekers detained in Hungary ‘deliberately deprived of food’: UN human rights office

A new approach to scaling-up renewable power in emerging markets

Think you’re safe at home? Think again. 5 household demons to be mindful about

Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon should be free to earn a living

Migration crisis update: mutual actions and solidarity needed as anti-migrant policies thrive

End ‘cycle of violence’ in Gaza, UN deputy chief tells forum on Palestine

Macro-Financial Assistance: Europe’s way to control Ukraine?

The UK’s River Thames has come back to life – with a seal population to prove it

Commission takes further action to ensure professionals can fully benefit from the Single Market

MEPs push for high ambitions at the COP25 in Madrid

Close to 7,000 evacuated from Syrian towns after enduring nearly 3-year siege

Coronavirus could trigger a hunger pandemic – unless urgent action is taken

Intensifying Negotiations on transatlantic Data Privacy Flows: A Joint Press Statement by European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo

5 Black heroes of the environmental movement

Why digital inclusion must be at the centre of resetting education in Africa

Here’s how we can rethink the way we eat meat

Europe’s richest regions actively seek investment from China’s biggest banks

A Union that strives for more: the first 100 days

Why rich countries are seeing more poverty

Mali just took a huge step towards universal healthcare

Can Europe and the US reverse their nationalist and xenophobic drift? Is the West becoming belligerent?

On the first day of 2019, over 395,000 babies to be born worldwide: UNICEF

3 ways business leaders can build digital trust

First EU collective redress mechanism to protect consumers

FROM THE FIELD: For refugees and migrants in Europe, healthcare’s essential but a challenge to find

GSMA head urges regulators to help Europe regain leadership

EU budget: Commission helps prepare new Cohesion programmes with Regional Competitiveness Index and Eurobarometer

A breath of fresh air: How three disused industrial areas became beautiful parks

New rules to help consumers join forces to seek compensation

Eurogroup: IMF proposes Germany disposes

Launch of Pact for Youth: European Youth Forum calls for real business engagement

We need to measure innovation better. Here’s how

Internet milestone reached, as more than 50 per cent go online: UN telecoms agency

Young activists share four ways to create a more inclusive world

ILO discusses world of work response to global refugee crisis

Tougher defence tools against unfair imports to protect EU jobs and industry

The EU Commission does nothing about the food retailing oligopoly

Do the giant banks ‘tell’ Britain to choose a good soft Brexit and ‘remain’ or else…?

Is Eurozone heading towards a long stagnation?

Euronest: delivering reforms is the best way forward for EU’s Eastern Partners

Gender equality and medicine in the 21st century: an equity unachieved

How we measure stakeholder capitalism will determine our recovery

The European Union’s Balkan Double Standard

Sustainable Development Summit: ‘We must step up our efforts – now’, Guterres declares

Is there a de facto impossibility for the Brexit to kick-start?

World Migratory Bird Day highlights deadly risks of plastic pollution

Migration surge leaves children stranded, begging on Djibouti’s streets

Cross-border cooperation: the EU Interreg programme celebrates 30 years of bringing citizens closer together

2,300 migrant children in Central American ‘caravan’ need protection, UNICEF says

Bringing nuclear test ban treaty into force a ‘central pillar’ of global disarmament push, says UN chief

HPV vaccine: the silver bullet that saves women

Are we at the edge of anti-vaccination health crisis?

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: #NoTobacco Day, China’s economy, family farming, #ClimateAction

More Stings?

Advertising

Comments

  1. Loved your post! Vital information for living in the new “normal”

    With the new information provided by WHO, stating that the COVID-19 virus could be airborne in certain conditions, wearing facemasks at all times is now essential for personal safety and the safety of others.
    Cotton facemasks are the most comfortable option during these times. They are skin-friendly, reusable, and can be comfortably worn for long durations.
    I’m selling masks in India and plan to send part of the profits to the COVID-19 relief fund. Alas, no sales yet

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s