By Pepi Sappal •
Published: 05 Mar 2020 • 10:01
Demand for face masks in Spain resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has shot up by 20,000% compared to last year, according to Spain’s federation of pharmaceutical distributors (Federacion de Distribuidores Farmaceuticos). There’s a daily demand for around 130,000 masks in the country, but the available supply only covers around 10% of that, according to the federation. The lack of masks and other health materials are putting health workers at high risk of catching the Coronavirus, according to both Spain’s health authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO). In fact, Spain has already reported that several of its health workers are currently infected.
Suppliers in Spain confirm they are struggling to meet the increase in demand for face masks. Vladimir Peñafiel, Director of operations at Rubix, a main supplier of masks in Spain, describes the situation as ‘complete madness’. “Between January and February we sold 6 million masks – what we normally sell in six months.” He says the company is struggling to meet the increase in demand, and gets phone calls from individuals and firms begging for supplies, but they can just about supply their existing customers.
Productos Favesam, the main distributor of health masks for hospitals and pharmacies in Spain, is in a similar predicament. To keep up with the high demand for masks, it has recently expanded its plant in Toledo (Portillo) to increase production. “Before Coronavirus we used to sell 100,000 masks in six months. Now we can sell 300,000 in just two minutes,” confirmed the company’s Commercial Director.
WHO has warned that there are simply not enough medical supplies to deal with COVID-19 adequately and have asked for suppliers to produce 40% more to meet the increase in demand. “Governments must act rapidly to remove restrictions required to import and access necessary medical materials,” warns WHO’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We can’t stop COVID-19 without first protecting health workers.”
Each month health workers around the world need 2.3 million masks with a filter, 89 million surgical masks, as well as 76 million gloves, 1.6 million protective glasses and 2.9 million litres of hand disinfectant to deal with the Coronavirus adequately, according to WHO.
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