Medical masks are one of the most controversial subjects during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries have laws that oblige citizens to wear masks in public places, while international organizations such as WHO advises against medical masks for domestic use and leave them to doctors. Not all countries have succeeded in reorienting their industry to the production of PPE – Hi-Tech talks about how much masks cost in the five countries most affected by COVID-19 and how accessible they are for the population.
A new type of coronavirus is transmitted by airborne droplets – that is, by sneezing and coughing (in this case, droplets of liquid with the virus fly up to a distance of 8 m), talking, and also when the virus is transferred from hand to face from infected surfaces.
According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, a healthy person should wear a medical mask only if he is helping a sick person with COVID-19. In addition, organization experts recommend wearing the mask to people who cough and sneeze – that is, potential carriers of infection.
Moreover, in recent weeks, many European and Asian countries, including Russia, have obliged their citizens to wear masks in public places. Authorities are guided by the fact that the mandatory wearing of personal protective systems will not allow asymptomatic carriers to infect healthy people.
This approach makes sense, especially given recent research. In mid-May, scientists from the University of Hong Kong found that masks protect healthy people from infection better than previously thought. Experiments on laboratory hamsters showed that when using masks, the contactless transmission of the virus decreased by more than 60%.
Disposable medical masks – epidemiologists strongly do not recommend reusing them. Moreover, the mandatory wearing of masks in public places for all citizens involves the production of from several hundred thousand to several tens of millions of masks per day – depending on the country.
Since so many masks were not needed before the epidemic, production facilities were not ready for such a volume of production. This led to a shortage of masks at the beginning of the epidemic in many countries – and, in accordance with market laws, a sharp increase in their prices.
How much do masks cost in different countries?
In the USA, which is the world leader in the number of infected COVID-19 with more than 1.5 million cases, a disposable mask, according to NBC, costs about $ 5 (363 rubles) per item, reusable (non-medical) – from $ 10 (726 rubles) apiece.
According to a survey conducted by the National Public Association of Pharmacists, nearly 96% of US pharmacists said that the demand for medical masks led to a sharp shortage.
At the beginning of the epidemic, there was a serious shortage of masks in the country – they were not in pharmacies, and personal protective equipment sold in non-specialized stores and on online platforms cost from 100 to 1,500 rubles apiece (in the second case we are talking about respirators).
In early May, Russia came in second in the world in the number of cases of COVID-19. According to Vedomosti, now a minimum of 50 million masks, 2 million respirators, and more than 500 thousand “plague” suits are required per day in the country. The publication noted that needs are 4-10 times higher than domestic production, and stocks are designed for only a few days.
Despite the fact that several months have passed since the start of the epidemic, masks are still a scarce commodity. Since May 12, Moscow and a number of Russian regions have introduced the mandatory wearing of masks and gloves in public places. According to the BBC, in the Moscow metro on May 12 they cost 30 rubles – while the purchase price for them was 1.64 rubles, and before the epidemic, masks in Russian pharmacies cost from 10 to 15 rubles. And doctors working with patients with coronavirus patients complain of a lack of personal protective equipment.
In Brazil, which on May 19 came in third in the number of new types of patients with coronavirus, the price of masks rose sharply compared to the period before the epidemic.
According to ICTQ, now a box of 50 surgical masks in the capital of Sao Paulo costs from 35 to 50 reais (from 445 to 638 rubles) – this is 198% more expensive than before the start of the COVID-19 epidemic. At the same time, in most pharmacies there is a shortage of not only surgical masks, but also more expensive respirators – if they manage to buy them, the price is from 12 to 35 reais (152-445 rubles) apiece.
In the UK, which ranks third in the number of COVID-19 cases in the world, there is also a shortage of masks. According to The Telegraph, the average price for masks in the country is from 1 to 2 pounds per piece (from 88.9 rubles to 177 rubles at the exchange rate on May 19).
N95 respirators are sold at almost 6 pounds (532 rubles) per piece or 119 pounds (10,569 rubles) per pack of 20 pieces. At the same time, in April, the average cost of an ordinary mask was approaching 6 pounds apiece.
— Katie Forster (@katieforster) February 6, 2020
Some sellers on eBay and Amazon online platforms and in local stores raise personal protective equipment prices 10 times – their masks cost from 10 to 15 pounds (889 rubles and 1,333 rubles, respectively).
The UK government also ordered citizens to wear masks in public spaces, and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) asked the government to introduce a fixed price for masks.
Italy, which a few weeks ago was the world leader in the number of new type of coronavirus infected, is now in sixth place.
Medical masks in pharmacies in the country cost from 1 to 7 euros (from 79 to 554 rubles). The cost depends on the type of masks – the surgical ones are the cheapest, with a filter they are more expensive. In some pharmacies, the cost of respirators is up to 12 euros (949 rubles).
In Spain, the government set a single price for surgical masks – it should not exceed 0.96 euros (about 70 rubles) per piece. According to authorities, this price is close to the cost of masks before the outbreak.
At the same time, the cost of respirators for which the decision does not apply is from 6.9 to 17 euros (from 550 to 1,345 rubles) per unit, depending on the city. Before the adoption of restrictions, surgical masks in the country cost from 1.5 to 2.5 euros (118 and 198 rubles, respectively) per piece.