Mask stockpile replenished


  • Singapore
  • Monday, 09 Mar 2020

Military support: Army personnel preparing face masks at SAFTI Military Institute, before distributing them around the country. — Reuters

THE national stockpile of surgical and N95 masks is being replenished on multiple fronts even as healthcare workers draw down on the supplies.

Aside from a warehouse in Tuas that stores already procured masks, the Government is working closely with private sector manufacturers and logistics companies to find and release masks to those who need them most, such as hospitals and clinics, say industry players.

Last month, the Ministry of Health (MOH) directed that masks be distributed to private healthcare practitioners, many of whom had not been able to secure any masks from their regular suppliers.

With traditional source places such as China and Taiwan now banning the export of masks, firms are looking for alternative sources in Malaysia, India and Europe.

Among them is Singapore firm Wellchem Pharmaceuticals, which supplies masks to hospitals here.

Its director, Winthrop Wong, said his manufacturer, which is based in a South-east Asian country, managed to ramp up production by three to four times. Before the virus outbreak, Wong used to order one million masks a month.

Meanwhile, an estimated 1.6 million masks unclaimed by Singapore households should be returned to the national stockpile, given that only two-thirds of all households here collected their free masks by the end of last month.

It is not known how many masks are in the stockpile. The Ministry of Trade and Industry, which oversees it, did not reply to queries.

Singapore currently does not have any factories producing surgical masks, after a previous venture in Woodlands set up by a group of doctors and businessmen failed.

But a 3M plant – an American firm – in Tuas makes N95 respirators.

According to the MOH website, N95 respirators are worn by healthcare workers dealing with infectious diseases, as these workers come into close contact with patients and their bodily fluids. — The Straits Times/ANN

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