Individuals throughout the globe are stockpiling facial masks to guard themselves against the brand new coronavirus, depleting on-line malls and retailer cabinets from California to Beijing. But their efficacy towards an outbreak that’s claimed greater than 130 lives stays unsure.
On Amazon and Alibaba, many outlets peddling anti-virus masks had run out of inventory as of Wednesday. Throughout China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, individuals lined up for hours at shops and pharmacies hoping to safe dwindling provides. Individuals from San Francisco to Orlando mentioned they have been unable to search out surgical masks at their regular retailers.
Whereas the frenzy is the world, Chinese individuals dwelling overseas have been shopping for masks — particularly the favored N95 variant made by 3M Co. — to ship again to relations or resell them on-line, typically through Tencent’s WeChat messaging app. Demand is simply more likely to enhance — regardless that doubts have surfaced among the many medical neighborhoods about their effectiveness in curbing the illness, which some docs say can unfold by way of bodily contact. The coronavirus, which first appeared within the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, has contaminated greater than 6,000 — greater than the 5,327 instances formally reported in China through the SARS epidemic of 17 years in the past.
Whereas it’s nonetheless unclear how the 2019-nCoV virus is spreading, one confirmed channel is through direct contact with contaminated individuals — almost certainly coming into contact with respiratory secretions or virus-containing droplets from a contaminated individual’s cough. It’s additionally attainable the virus may very well be shed in different methods, together with the fecal waste of acutely contaminated individuals.
Good hand hygiene, together with the common use of an alcohol-based mostly sanitizer, could also be more practical than face masks at stopping transmission of the 2019-nCoV virus, mentioned Peter Collignon, an infectious ailments doctor and microbiologist at Australia’s Canberra Hospital.
China’s authorities have responded to the worsening scarcity by cracking down on distributors who promote fake masks or overcharge on-line. Over 80 outlets on e-commerce platform Taobao, run by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., allegedly offered counterfeit 3M and N95 face masks, Chinese state media reported Monday.
In Hong Kong, some retailer chains have begun limiting gross sales. Watsons stated on its official Fb account it could obtain a restricted provide on Jan. 30, then restrict purchases to 50 masks per particular person on a first come first serve foundation. Individuals within the metropolis who’ve tried to send masks to mainland China mentioned their deliveries bought bounced again without being given a transparent motive.