Coronavirus: Lawmaker, local factory team for reusable, antibacterial masks, though efficacy against viruses unknown

03-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s textile industry could start making and selling reusable surgical masks using an antibacterial fabric within 10 days amid the city’s ongoing shortage, a lawmaker for the sector said on Friday.

Textile and garment industry legislator Felix Chung Kwok-pan told an RTHK radio programme he was working with a local manufacturer to make reusable face masks out of a fabric previously developed by researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which cautioned the fabric has not yet been proven to prevent viruses.

“The government has said that 30 million masks are on the way, but the problem is these masks need to be thrown out after eight hours of use. If everyone in the city needs a mask, that’s 200 million a month,” the Liberal Party leader said.

“If the virus continues for months, supply will never be stable.”

Chung later clarified that the PolyU team was not involved in the plan to turn the fabric into a mask, which he said could be washed and reused between 50 and 70 times.

The antibacterial properties of the fabric, which is currently being used for home products such as bedsheets, have already received medical certification and could prevent Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria, which causes pneumonia, along with sinus, ear and yeast infections, Chung said, though he was unsure if it could effectively protect against other viruses.

PolyU on Friday issued a statement clarifying that the university had been commissioned to develop the fabric by The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel and that while it was able to filter bacteria and mould, it had not yet been proven to be able to prevent viruses.

Hong Kong residents are currently facing a surgical mask shortage as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, with the city reporting 12 confirmed cases. The virus, which started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has claimed more than 200 lives on the mainland and infected more than 9,800 worldwide.

Online orders for masks cancelled as overseas suppliers report shortages

Some traders have been accused of selling fake or low-quality surgical masks, while others have increased prices. Long queues formed in the city as some chain stores started to receive limited shipments of masks, but those quickly sold out. Some of those who have turned to online sources have had their orders overseas cancelled because of the supply shortage.

Chung said a sample of the new mask made by a local textile factory would be available by Monday, and that he hoped the masks could be mass-produced and sold within the next 10 days.

“As for the cost, that should not be a problem. We will do it no matter what,” he said.

A source with knowledge of the matter told the Post that the University of Hong Kong would test if the fabric could filter out the novel coronavirus.


Category: Hong Kong

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