Chinese mask makers cancel holidays to meet demand spikes in battle against coronavirus

By GT staff reporters Published: 2020/1/26 1:39:49

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Chinese medical firms have been all out during  the holidays to ensure a stable mask supply in support of the country's efforts to combat the the novel coronavirus-related pneumonia, which has caused more than 40 deaths in China as of Saturday.

"Now we are producing [the masks] in three shifts 24 hours a day and we can produce 40,000 disposable medical masks every day," Chen Lianjie, legal representative of Zhejiang Kanglidi Medical Supplies Company, told the Global Times on Saturday.

At present, more than 30 employees who account for nearly half of all production line workers, have returned to their positions. The company covered their travel expenses, Chen said.

According to Chen, they have ordered two more fully automatic production lines and it takes about 25 days to get them ready. When they are in place, the company can reach a capacity of 100,000 masks per day. 

Wu Kangping, head of Zhejiang Longtai Medical Technology Company which produces protective suits, told the Global Times on Saturday that the employees took the Spring Festival holidays from last Sunday. In less than a week, more than half of the employees have returned from their hometown to work. "But no one comes from the affected area," Wu added.

Cao Jun, general manager at the Zhejiang-based Lanhine Corp, which is mainly engaged in face masks and protective face shield production, said that the company has urged its workers who have already returned home for the Spring Festival holidays to return to the production line by paying four times the regular salary.

The procurement of medical devices is currently done by the local government. "Masks are delivered at 2 pm every day when the local health department comes to pick up the masks," Chen said. 

The cost of a disposable medical mask is a few cents and there is zero markup. "Now the government makes sure the suppliers do not  increase prices. Even if the raw material prices increase, our company will bear the extra costs. It's our responsibility and obligation," Chen said.

The maximum production capacity of masks in China is more than 20 million pieces per day. More than 30 enterprises have suspended vacation and resumed production. The output has reached more than 8 million a day,Miao Wei, Minister of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said on Friday.

However, the supply is still far from enough as demand is still rising. A doctor from Wuhan Union Hospital told the Global Times in a recent interview that there has been a significant shortage of medical supplies such as protective suits, goggles and masks. "We've been treating a growing number of patients, and there's a larger demand for those necessities," she said.

On Saturday morning, the hospital received a batch of necessities donated by social organizations and by ordinary people, which also showed that more people stand with Wuhan in the battle against pneumonia. 

Starting Thursday, MIIT has sent 14,000 protective suits and 110,000 pairs of medical gloves to Wuhan. It also helped purchase 3 million masks, 100,000 protective suits, and 2180 pairs of goggles.

When asked about the difficulties in resuming production during the Spring Festival holidays, Chen said the serious shortage of raw materials poses a major obstacle.  

During the interview, Wu said his time is very tight. He has been busy coordinating the restoration of production and dealing with all sides concerned. Wu's company has been exporting medical devices, mainly to the US. The specifications and sizes of its products are different from China's. His company has made adjustments, and applied the production license to the provincial and municipal food and drug agencies, and the government has also fast-tracked the review and approval for such applications.


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