Prevent marketing of unhygienic surgical masks
IN the wake of growing cases of coronavirus infection in winter, the demand for masks is on the rise again. To meet the market demands, many people are involving in the production of non-woven surgical masks without maintaining health safety in the outskirts of Dhaka. Those masks are being sold at local markets in boxes with no producer's name, trademark, or other means of identification. Such face masks without maintaining proper specifications are dangerous for public health and the environment.
The use of face masks, as an effective gear to prevent community transmission of Covid-19, increased considerably after the government announced a strictly enforced "no mask, no service" policy at public and private offices on November 2. Experts said wearing these fake masks, people move around and feel a false sense of security and that makes them susceptible to the virus. Unhygienic production of surgical masks has put the sector at stake as the high-quality products of factories maintaining health safety measures cannot compete with the cheap low-quality masks.
A surgical face mask was sold at Tk 10 in June-July last year. Now, people are buying four for Tk 10. The production cost per thousand masks at the factory was around Tk 1,350, but producers of low-quality masks were selling a thousand masks at only Tk 1,100. Experts said there is no way to produce such medical production with low-grade non-woven fabric and in an unhygienic environment. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), use of a cloth mask in a community setting is enough to stay safe from Covid-19 infection while medical masks are mandatory in a hospital setting, based on the environment.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) has set out different specifications and quality control guidelines for both fabric and medical masks. It laid out the details from materials to be used, to construction, packaging, marking and warnings to be labelled on the boxes of the face masks. However, there is no authority to maintain standardization of the essential safety gear. The government should set some regulations to reduce bulk production without proper specifications and encourage people to use cloth-based reusable masks to get the maximum benefit of the people and the environment as well.