Coronavirus: French, Chinese Seize Thousands of Facemasks

  • The price of masks in shops and online sales has jumped three times as much as before the requisition.
  • Chinese authorities seized over 89 million shoddy face masks as well as ineffective disinfectant.
  • Researchers say that non-medical masks may be effective in preventing infected people from infecting others.

French police have seized 14,000 face masks intended for sale on the black market, AFP reported. Two people were arrested while they were unloading boxes in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, a police source said on Sunday. Last month, the French government confiscated all of its mask stockpiles and production for health care workers.

An FFP2 mask offers protection in various areas such as the glass industry, foundry, construction, pharmaceutical industry and agriculture. It can also serve as protection against influenza viruses such as avian influenza or severe acute respiratory syndrome associated with the coronavirus (SARS), as well as against the bacteria of pneumonic plague and tuberculosis.

The price of masks in shops and online sales has jumped three times as much as before the requisition. In Germany, medical supplies wholesalers say masks are almost out of stock. Beginning on the 27th, wearing masks is mandatory in retail stores and public transportation in the country.

Meanwhile, in China, authorities seized 89 million low-quality masks. It has been reported that China exported defective products, including face masks, designed to fight the coronavirus pandemic. This has been a point of criticism against Beijing. Chinese authorities have on-site inspections of nearly 16 million business establishments. They also seized a large amount of ineffective disinfectant.

Black Market Client Lists

Among the confiscations in Saint-Denis, there were 5,000 high-performance masks, conforming to the European standard FFP2, used for coronavirus patients. One-third of them were surgical masks. According to a local newspaper, Le Parisien, a 60-year-old man who was arrested this time was trying to buy a mask in the Netherlands for a price of €0.50 and sell it for €0.55-0.6. It seems that he had a customer list including one company president.

Another suspect, 46, who was arrested at the same time, was alleged to be in the process of buying a portion of the inventory for resale. Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, several cases of seizing masks have occurred around Paris. Over 29,000 masks were confiscated in Aubervilliers, north of Paris, and 32,000 in Saint-Ouen.

At press time, over 165,000 people were infected with the new coronavirus in France and over 23,000 have died, according to Worldometers. The country’s population is about 67 million.

A cloth face mask is a mask made of common textiles, usually cotton, worn over the mouth and nose. Unlike surgical masks and respirators such as N95 masks, they are not subject to regulation, and there is currently little research or guidance on their effectiveness as a protective measure against infectious disease transmission or particulate air pollution.

Regarding masks, Spain, the Netherlands, and Turkey have recalled hundreds of thousands of imported products because of poor quality. According to a source which deals with Chinese business data, about 9,000 business sites in the country started manufacturing masks from January to February this year. On the 25th, China announced a new rule that it must meet international standards for armor such as masks for export.

Germany’s third-largest supplier says demand has outstripped supply, despite increasing inventory in anticipation of mask wearing restrictions. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, do not require a person to wear a mask. Concerns about a lack of supply to hospitals are part of the reason.

In the United States, medical masks are in short supply, and authorities are urging them to leave them for health workers. The public is advised to cover their faces with clean cloth in public. The Czech government urged their people to make their own cloth masks a few weeks ago when they made it mandatory to wear them in public.

Researchers say that non-medical masks may be effective in preventing infected people from infecting others, but they have little effect in preventing the spread of the new virus.

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.

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