BEIJING: A friend in need is a friend indeed.
Malaysians have embarked on mask-hunting trips this Chinese New Year holiday, not just for themselves, but also for their Chinese friends suffering from the coronavirus outbreak.
China, which is battling a new coronavirus that causes respiratory ailments, is facing a shortage of masks and medical supplies such as protective glasses and suits.
Consultant Carine Wong has travelled hundreds of kilometres, made dozens of phone calls, and exchanged uncountable messages since the coronovirus outbreak turned severe and resulted in the lockdown of Wuhan and the Hubei province on Jan 23.
She has only one mission – to get some masks before returning to China for work.
Wong said initially she was just looking for masks for her lecturer husband, who has to meet many students.
“I asked around and posted my question in various chat groups and noticed that many people were like me, ” she added.
Wong, who is back in Selangor for holiday, drove almost 100km a day and went as far as Semenyih, a town about 35km from Kuala Lumpur, to look for the product.
“I left behind my contact numbers at all the pharmacies I entered, ” she said.
So, when she was notified of the arrival of new stocks, she rushed to buy and share the information in various group chats set up by Malaysians in China.
“And later, a Chinese friend who worked at a government department asked if I could help find some supplies in Malaysia.
“She telephoned me in the wee hours, so I knew she was desperate, ” she said, adding that she started using all her connections to contact the manufacturers in Malaysia and other countries including Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and India.
So far, she has arranged for over 100 cartons of mask to China, with the items paid by the recipients at a discounted price.
Dr Lim Ze Shun has also sent out loads of medical supplies to China.
“I read news about the outbreak and learned that many hospitals in China faced a shortage of these items.
“So, I tried to help out and contacted the suppliers I knew, ” he added.
Coincidentally, a Chinese friend from a voluntary organisation asked if he could help source for these items in Malaysia.
So, he looked out for the manufacturers and suppliers on the Internet and called them.
Dr Lim has sent out tens of thousands of masks, 200 boxes of gloves, over 2,000 pieces of protective suit and alcohol for medical use since last Monday.
Asked if he was worried that he will be criticised by those in Malaysia who are also searching for masks, the 32-year-old medical doctor based in Kuala Lumpur said China needs the items more urgently.
“We have a comprehensive health system and sufficient medical resources, judging on the current situation and the preventive measures taken in Malaysia, the people here do not have to panic, ” he added.
Relaying his mask-hunting ordeal, Lim Chin Shih said he paid 79 yuan (RM47) for a piece of reusable mask that came with two disposable filters.
“I bought four of these online. Although expensive, I have to because it is mandatory to wear a mask at public places in Guangzhou, ” said the Malaysian businessman.
He later bought another four pieces of N95 masks from a
pharmacy for 20 yuan (RM11) each, after queuing up for almost an hour.
“The shop has limited each customer to only four pieces, ” said Lim, who is currently seeking help from his two flight attendant friends to get supplies from overseas.