Coronavirus: Pics of unmasked docs, nurses move China amid mask shortage worry

Images of docs with facial scars, imprints have moved millions, state media reported

coronavirus people's daily A health professional bearing scars of excessive use of face masks | People's Daily via Twitter

Earlier this week, China's state-run People's Daily shared images of a group of doctors and nurses who have been engaged in treating people infected with the novel coronavirus.

The images showed women health professionals without their protective masks, apparently during breaks. All the professionals bore visible facial scars and imprints caused by the near-continuous use of the masks, which have been considered a stand-out image of the fight against coronavirus.

The images, People's Daily, claimed had "moved millions of netizens" in China.

This comes after reports of doctors getting inadequate rest and even having to wear adult diapers due to the difficulty in removing their HAZMAT coveralls.

Ironically, the images have gone viral at a time when there is concern about the availability of these protective face masks in China. On Thursday, BBC analysed China's requirement for face masks in the fight against coronavirus.

Giving the example of the need in Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, BBC explained about "500,000" medical personnel were working in the province. Given the need to change masks frequently, the BBC noted around 2 million masks would be needed in Hubei alone daily, for medical professionals.

The BBC explained the procedure of using four face masks is being used in a major hospital in Wuhan. In addition, around 500,000 people working in public transport agencies have been told to use face masks, while businesses are insisting customers wear masks to enter their premises.

The BCC reported China normally produced "around twenty millions masks each day", which was around half the number produced globally. However, due to the Chinese New Year holiday and the coronavirus outbreak, production has been cut to around 10 million. Worryingly, the daily production of 'high quality' masks, such as the N-95 model, is only around 600,000. Such masks are the most effective in preventing coronavirus.

Zhejiang province "reported on 27 January that they needed a million of these masks each day, and other provinces have said they are only just able to meet demand for these high-quality masks. In addition, hospitals don't have large stockpiles of these masks—in most cases, only enough to last two weeks,” BBC reported.

Taobao, an digital retail enterprise owned by Alibaba, claimed it sold 80 million masks on January 20-21.

"China bought 220 million face masks between 24 January and 2 February, with South Korea one of the countries supplying them," BBC reported, highlighting the high demand.

Interestingly, due to the panic over coronavirus, mask retailers are reporting shortages in several countries.