Mask sales soar despite doubts they block coronavirus
Nikkei -- Jan 28
Will wearing a surgical mask help protect against the new coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and has so far killed more than 80 people?

"Masks may not have the preventive effect people hope," Satoshi Hori, Professor of Infection Control Science at Juntendo University in Tokyo, told the Nikkei Asian Review. "Wearing a mask works to help prevent patients with the virus from spreading it, as it blocks the dispersal of droplets containing the virus."

Wearing gloves won't help much either, said Professor Hori, because people wearing gloves who touch a contaminated surface such as door handles, can still spread the virus. They can also contract the virus if they touch their eyes or mouth with a gloved hand.

"Washing your hands with soap, or using rubbing alcohol, is more important and is supported by scientific evidence," he said.

Scientific evidence is one thing, but the wisdom crowds is another, with panicked consumers driving gallopping demand for surgical masks that has left manufacturers scrambling.

According to Japan's top mask maker Unicharm, in addition to making more masks at its domestic factories -- Unicharm began round-the-clock operation last week -- the company has also asked its suppliers in China to ramp up production.

Since the first case of coronavirus in Japan was confirmed, Unicharm said it has been flooded with orders for masks from drugstores and other retailers. According to the company orders temporarily topped 10 times the normal level and remained three times higher than usual through last week.

Unicharm offers a range of high-quality face masks, including "Cho-kaiteki," or super comfy, masks, which promise to be very comfortable to wear, and "Cho-rittai," or super three-dimensional, masks, which feature a "super 3D fit" that shapes to the user's face without leaving gaps, but also stops the mask from sticking to the user's mouth.

Unicharm, which plans to continue increased production levels through to the end of January, said it had also decided to increase production of alcohol wet wipes in several domestic factories in response to surging demand.

Another Japanese mask manufacturer, Kowa, which is based in Nagoya, said it had also lifted production at its domestic plants. "We can't meet demand, we are getting so many orders and production cannot catch up."

News source: Nikkei
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