China faces acute short­age of masks, dis­in­fec­tants sup­ply

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Bei­jing, China - Phar­ma­cies in Bei­jing and Shang­hai were run­ning low on sur­gi­cal masks and dis­in­fec­tants on Wed­nes­day as a deadly new SARS-like virus spread ahead of the busy Lu­nar New Year travel pe­riod.

More peo­ple than usual were seen wear­ing masks on the streets and sev­eral stores AFP vis­ited had run out of stock - to the dis­may of cus­tomers.

The rush to step up pro­tec­tive mea­sures against the new coro­n­avirus came af­ter it in­fected more than 400 peo­ple across China.

The ill­ness, first dis­cov­ered in the cen­tral city of Wuhan, is spread­ing just as hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple take to packed trains, planes and buses around the coun­try on their way to re­unions with fam­ily and friends for the fes­tive pe­riod.

An em­ployee at a phar­macy in Bei­jing told AFP it had run out of sur­gi­cal masks two days ago.

“When it hit close to 300 cases, peo­ple re­alised it was se­ri­ous,” he said, adding that items such as ther­mome­ters had also been sell­ing fast.

“It hap­pened so sud­denly; we didn’t pre­pare any back-up and ex­ist­ing stock was quickly de­pleted.”

A batch of masks that ar­rived on Wed­nes­day morn­ing sold out in just half an hour, he added.

The store still had other masks in stock but these were not de­signed for sur­gi­cal pur­poses.

At another phar­macy in Bei­jing, a sign on the door said they were also all out of the prod­ucts. “We get some stock ev­ery day, but it is not enough to ful­fil de­mand,” said a staff mem­ber who did not want to be iden­ti­fied.

“We have also run out of dis­in­fec­tants,” she said. “We are work­ing hard to re­plen­ish stock but we don’t know when it will come.”

Bei­jing’s Mar­ket Su­per­vi­sion and Reg­u­la­tion Bureau is­sued a state­ment on its WeChat ac­count on Wed­nes­day with guide­lines for busi­nesses, to help ‘en­sure the sta­bil­ity of prices for goods such as masks and other items re­lated to the epi­demic’.

In Shang­hai, su­per­mar­ket staff con­tin­u­ally re­stocked shelves as shop­pers snapped up the avail­able prod­ucts.

Some hos­pi­tals and clin­ics in the fi­nan­cial hub set up sta­tions at the en­trances to their emer­gency units to screen peo­ple with flu symp­toms.

The coro­n­avirus has caused con­cern due to its ge­netic sim­i­lar­i­ties with Se­vere Acute Re­s­pi­ra­tory Syn­drome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 peo­ple across main­land China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

But not ev­ery­one is ner­vous.

“The sit­u­a­tion doesn’t seem as se­ri­ous as in 2003 dur­ing the SARS out­break. Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced that out­break, peo­ple are less pan­icky,” said a 40 year old woman sur­named Zhou in Bei­jing.

“We know how to pro­tect our­selves and ven­ti­late our homes. It’s close to the Spring Fes­ti­val too, and we have to go house-vis­it­ing. If rel­a­tives are wor­ried, we will wear masks in their houses.”

Wang Suping (50), who works at an arts school, said: “These days, I wear masks even in places that are not too crowded although I wouldn’t have done so in the past.”

She was not anx­ious as she had medicine and masks at home, she added.

“When you can’t con­tain the virus, we have to do what we can to pro­tect our­selves.”


An el­derly woman leaves af­ter buy­ing pro­tec­tive masks from a phar­macy in Bei­jing on Wed­nes­day

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