Protective facial masks have become a rare item in Greece as pharmacies are unable to cope with demand, the president of the the Athens Pharmaceutical Association revealed on Sunday.
Speaking to Proto Thema radio, Constantinos Lourantos said that the shortage is mainly caused by Chinese nationals who buy huge quantities with the intention of shipping them to friends and relatives in China where the coronavirus death toll has overtaken that of the Sars epidemic in 2003.
Lourantos described an incident where about fifteen Chinese customers descended on his drug store and bought the entire stock of masks. Anecdotal evidence suggests that shortages are also occurring in other parts of Greece.
According to union of public hospital workers POEDIN, the price for the simple surgical mask has risen from €0.0116 +VAT to €0.032+VAT, while the price for the high protection mask went up from €0.64+VAT to 2 euro each+VAT.
The world-wide panic over coronavirus has created shortages of protective masks in many parts of the world. It prompted electronics giant Foxconn, the maker of the Apple iPhone, to set up a production line of facial masks at its facility near Shenzhen in southeastern China. The company expects capacity to reach 2 million facial masks per day by the end of February.
Leading scientists say that wearing an ordinary mask provides limited protection value against coronavirus.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told Live Science recently that the surgical mask is intended for surgeons, because these products do a good job of keeping pathogens from the doctor’s nose and mouth from entering the surgical field.
In some Asian countries, such as Japan and China, it’s not uncommon to see people wearing surgical masks in public to protect against pathogens and pollution. But those masks don’t help much in the context of a virus, Schaffner said.
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