On Friday, China tightened export restrictions on masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) and required shipments containing these items to undergo mandatory customs controls with immediate effect. Under normal circumstances, around twenty million masks are produced in China every day. This is estimated to be around half of all masks made worldwide.
However, Chinese production has been reduced to around 10 million masks both because of the New Year celebrations and the effects of the virus itself. Of course, that’s not enough to even meet current demand in China. In addition, it is the higher quality masks that are most effective and most needed. One type, called the N95 respirator, filters out at least 95% of the airborne particles and is more effective than an ordinary surgical or medical mask, which also needs to be changed more frequently.
According to the Ministry of Industry, around 600,000 of these high-quality masks are currently produced in China every day. One province, Zhejiang, announced on Jan. 27 that it needed a million of these masks a day, and other provinces said they were just about able to meet the demand for these high-quality masks. In addition, hospitals do not have large stocks of these masks – in most cases they only last for two weeks.
Across China, there have been reports of shortages and rising prices as people rushed to buy masks. To give an idea of the demand, the Chinese online shopping website Taobao claims to have sold more than 80 million masks in just two days in January. Foxconn, the maker of the Apple iPhone, has announced that it will cease production to convert the production of surgical masks. The aim is to produce two million masks a day by the end of February. As we all know, FFP2 mask manufacturers from China will star in this market from March to May 2020.