Coronavirus: Demand for masks surge in UAE, markets face shortage
Dubai - There are different types of surgical, medical and safety masks in the market.
Demand for masks is spiralling in the UAE after the onset of coronavirus and markets are already facing shortage of stocks.
But most residents are using them without knowing its basic use.
"As a medical supplier who has been in the business for over 15 years, health crisis is a challenge you can never be prepared enough. The same happened during Sars, Ebola and now the coronavirus. Since Dubai is a global medical and logistics hub, it is one of the front-runners when it comes to sourcing medical consumables, especially during emergencies. For the last few days, medical suppliers in the region have been busy fulfilling orders for general medical infection control consumables like masks, to clients in the UAE and outside," said Praveen Nair, director of Heal Middle East.
He imports different kinds of masks that are used in the healthcare sector. Most of his manufacturers are from China and Nair claims there has been a huge rise in the demand for face masks, both from within and outside the UAE.
"The UAE has always been the gateway for medical supplies to regions far beyond, and hence sourcing items from other regions have not been a challenge. Also, this situation gives UAE-based manufacturers an opportunity to step up and fill any gaps that may arise," he added.
"We have not faced issues in importing other medical devices from China as it is business as usual in most unaffected parts of the country. However, sourcing masks has been a challenge as it is the source of the coronavirus outbreak," said Nair.
Types of masks
There are different types of surgical, medical and safety masks in the market, with each one having its own functionality and usage guidelines. As a general principle, it is advisable to use a medical product under the guidance of a medical practitioner. It is also important to wear a face mask correctly to mitigate the spread of air borne viruses.
"Since there is constant updations on the coronavirus, it is best to watch out for information and public guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) on infection control and disease prevention and act accordingly," Nair said.
A special kind of mask - N95 mask - is required for healthcare workers or people in contact with coronavirus-infected people. Dr Kausar Perveen, specialist internal medicine at the Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah, said: "Normal disposable masks can be used for flu virus but it should be properly fitted. If you are suffering from flu, wear disposable masks so other people will not get the infection from you.
"For the N95 masks, expiry date is mentioned on the box used for storage - it is usually five years from the date of manufacture. One can use a mask for eight hours of continuous or intermittent use. It is better not to reuse except in case of shortage of availability, but be sure they are physically intact without any damage," she added.
Endorsing similar view, Dr Mohammed Hassan Kazia, specialist internal medicine emergency department, Prime Hospital, said: "Usually, N95 masks are recommended during any viral infection. These are single-use masks and must be disposed if they get moist or wet. Ideally, a mask must be used no longer than eight hours."