Most of the people infected with the deadly virus are in China, which has a population of 1.386 billion. With large parts of the country are locked down with more than 12 million citizens effectively quarantined in their own homes.
Could China run out of face masks? Is there a shortage?
Chinese authorities recommended people wear face masks to help slow or prevent the spread of the virus.
But they have since appealed to other countries for help keeping a healthy supply of masks available.
It is difficult to assign an exact figure to the number of face masks required, but they are used by civilians and medical staff alike.
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Coronavirus face masks: Could China RUN OUT of face masks? Is there a shortage?
Coronavirus face masks: Demand for face masks is extremely high at the moment
Generally speaking, the use of face masks in China is widespread whether they’ve been advised to wear one or not.
Even culturally, it’s quite common for people in China to wear the masks, both as general protection and if they feel they are getting ill.
Medical advice says face masks should be changed on a regular basis.
People working as part of medical teams are told to swap them four times a day.
Coronavirus face masks: People working as part of medical teams are told to swap masks four times a day
Again it’s difficult to get an exact number but with reports of shops and public premises banning people from entering without a face mask, demand is clearly high.
China has also been in its festive holiday period after celebrating the New Year.
Many people will be returning to work in mid-February, which will increase demand.
And then there’s the 500,000 staff working on public transport in China that have been told to use face masks.
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The coronavirus is thought to have originated in the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, in Hubei province.
The estimated number of medical workers operating in the province is 500,000.
We know that medical team members need to change their masks four times a day, so demand in one province alone stands at two million face masks a day.
With the virus spreading further around China, that daily demand among medical staff alone will continue to rise.
Coronavirus face masks: Under normal circumstances China can produce 20 million masks a day
China is unlikely to be able to keep up with the demand.
Usually, it can produce around 20 million face masks each day, which is about half of all those made across the world.
But these are not normal circumstances and production has been cut to 10 million a day, not just because of the virus but also the New Year holiday period.
Those masks include the efficient N95 respirator that can filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles.
Around 600,000 of these are made each day but the province of Zheijang reported on January 27 that it needed one million N95s a day.
Between January 24 and February 2, China bought 220 million face masks and since the beginning of this month authorities removed tariffs and duties on imported medical supplies.
Taiwan has banned the exporting of face masks saying it wants to prioritise the protection of its own citizens; it’s also introducing a rationing system for buying masks.
Panic buying has led to some countries experiencing shortages of face masks.
The US company 3M is a major manufacturer of high-quality face masks and it said it was increasing production to meet global demand.