‘Social distancing, hand washing must’
KUWAIT CITY, June 17: The exploitation of crises by merchants due to weak government decisions, delay and slow pace in purchasing medical protection supplies has created a black market where masks, gloves and face shields are sold at obscene and exaggerated prices in violation of the needs of people spurred by the spread of coronavirus.
Faced with scarcity of medical protection tools and supplies on the one hand, and high cost and badness on the other hand, some found in this situation a golden opportunity to work and earn a livelihood by making the protective items at home and selling them to those in need.
Coronavirus opened new horizons in the purchasing trend of a large segment of individuals with the manufacture of products that draw the attention of women and others attracting men, in addition to medical masks.
The difficulty in finding them became a demand for many who are interested in preventing the virus from spreading in both genders. Due to conditions of the ban and isolation, the trade in fabric masks flourished electronically to become one of the most sought-after commodities, so many manufacturers are active in marketing and obtaining the largest segment of consumers.
Housewives entered the production line, as they found in the current situation a source of livelihood by sewing masks and selling them via Instagram. Some small household projects have gone through experimenting to compete for appropriate market share, in line with amendment to the activities of clothing, dishdasha and abaya companies in the current period, to manufacture and supply fabric gags to consumers. The revival of the mask market led to the emergence of competition among different agencies.
Each side strived to attract the largest number of customers by sewing new “models” that suit adults and children in different colors, most notably black, that attracts both genders, as well as female ornate gags or female colors such as pink and orange.
As children are among the most targeted for protection against the corona infection, many agencies have worked on preparing masks with appropriate designs and attractive graphics, whether Mickey Mouse for unisex or Spider-Man for boys and Disney princesses for girls, to help parents persuade their children to commit to wearing masks. While the price of a pack of medical masks containing 50 masks is about 5 dinars, the price of a single cloth is between 3 and 7 dinars, according to design and quality, as it can be reused after washing and sterilized with necessary tools.
The cloth masks spread on social media are often made of cotton material, so they are light in texture on the skin, and also have good ventilation that protects the wearer, while the size of the masks can be changed to fit the head to ensure that individuals do not feel headache or ear pain. The sources contacted the owner of an Instagram account for selling cloth masks.
She explained going into this trade “because of its benefit to society at the time of the epidemic and to limit possible exploitation by some companies, in addition to my desire to find a source of livelihood in the meantime.” She stated, “I finally started knocking on the doors of this trade, which seems to attract many individuals in the next stage, as some customers reject medical masks of dull colors due to their preference for bright colors and designs appropriate for their ruffle during outings in the partial ban period, and in the next stages of the return of life, for work and accompanying activities”.
The primary goal of masks, which is to protect against infection, cannot be ignored. This requires knowing the difference between the types of masks that consumers find in the market, as to whether fabric masks perform their purpose of protection from diseases or they are not beneficial in this regard.
Internal disease consultant Dr Muhammad Al-Mousawi confirmed the different types of masks found in the market, citing medical masks and other fabrics made inside homes that can be washed. He stressed that medical surgical masks cannot be reused or washed, but used once. He indicated that cloth masks are washed and put in the sun to dry and re-used, pointing out that the more sophisticated gags like N95 and KN95 can be reused after sterilization in a device called autoclave, which is only found in the health centers because it is very expensive and specialized for medical staff.
Al-Mousawi warned that the type of masks appropriate for individuals depends on the place they go to. For example, the cloth mask may fulfill the purpose of individuals heading for cooperative societies, groceries or banks, while regular medical masks with three layers may be equally useful. These two types of masks are suitable for the two activities and in open places. He warned of some types of masks unaccredited by the Ministry of Health that contain only one or two layers, noting they may be suitable for cooks in kitchens, while the recommended medical mask must contain three layers to protect against infection.
Al-Mousawi pointed to a problem in ordinary individuals using gloves, saying “gloves give a feeling of fake safety, especially as many people misuse them.” He noted that medical staff faced a crisis of gloves due to misuse by individuals at the time the doctor needed them for operations and examination. Dr Muhammad Al-Mousawi revealed an integrated system of behaviors must be followed to make the most of masks, saying “the mask is not efficient in all cases, so it must be accompanied by social distancing without touching the face, eyes or nose, in addition to frequent washing of the hands.”