In December 2019, the new coronavirus (Covid-19) broke out in Wuchan, Hubei province and then it spread to other provinces in China. The World Health Organization (WHO) believed the outbreak in China would peak between January 23 and February 2, 2020 and confirmed cases would decline steadily since then. It will take about 2 weeks for patients of mild symptom to recover, and about 3-6 weeks for severe patients. Measures taken by Chinese government have averted larger number of cases. The outbreak in China has been brought under control after unremitting efforts during past month.
On February 23, Al Jazeera reported that the fast-moving virus has spread to about 30 countries and regions, including the US, Japan, Italy, and South Korea. Iran, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel and Lebanon have reported their first cases. It indicates that Covid-19 may cause a serious problem for the whole world.
Supplies used for preventing and containing Covid-19 such as surgical mask, forehead thermometer and disinfection products ran scarce. Diagnostic kits are also being developed. China is known as “World Factory”, so many people want to import related products to support prevention of the virus in their countries. But there are many serious problems with this plan at the present stage, so you have to keep that in mind.
China lacks related supplies. Here take surgical mask as an example.
1.Contradiction between supply and demand in China
By February 22, the daily production of masks in China had reached 54.77 million, with a total of 570 million produced in the past 20 days. The daily production of N95 reached 919,000 by February 22, which is 8.6 times that on February 1.
However, China has a population of 1.4 billion. Even if it is calculated at 10%, China’s own production capacity is far from enough to meet its own demand.
Although the production capacity of masks gradually resumes after Chinese government has made its utmost effort. It is still slow even with new capacity. From my personal estimation, the problem of short supply of masks may be resolved by May. In other words, it would be unrealistic to import masks from China through commercial channels before May, unless there is intergovernmental coordination.
2. Classification of masks:
Single-use medical face mask
Protective face mask for medical use
Industrial grade anti-dust mask
Industrial grade anti-dust mask
The medical facemask is currently in the category of controlled materials, and relevant documents and qualifications are required for large-scale procurement. The sale of surgical masks should also be qualified. Currently, people and companies can only purchase a small number of surgical masks through government-approved channels. Masks purchased from other channels like e-commerce or private channels are much higher. Normal civil masks cannot prevent the virus. There have been numerous cases of fraud in which consumers have paid but only got fake ones or even not receiving masks.
Therefore, if someone claims to be able to import medical masks in bulk from China, you have to be careful. It might be a scam.
The situation also applies to forehead thermometer and disinfection products.
3. How to legally import anti-epidemic supplies from China?
First, import through official coordination.
Second, import from qualified suppliers after China’s supply capacity can meet domestic demand.
In fact, the outbreak in China has been brought under control through following ways:
A. Reduce public gathering.
Effective identification of suspected cases
Non-contact temperature measurement is the easiest method.
B. Disinfection and sterilization in public places.
It is particularly necessary to sterilize hospitals, schools, shopping malls, large companies, and government offices, etc.
C. Quickly diagnose suspected and confirmed infected people.
The early DNA tests were time consuming and costly. China is developing a lot of rapid diagnostic reagents, but it will take time to support the global market.