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A health worker with protective clothing adjusts his glasses before moving patients in Daegú, South Korea.

On a Facebook page dedicated solely to the sale of cars in T&T, in between photos of sedans, a woman announced last Friday that she had a box of face masks for sale in Couva.

“N95 particulate respirator and surgical mask. Yes its niosh approved. Made in U.S.A. Now $200 for box (20 pcs) while stocks last,” she posted.

She said the masks could be picked up by the QuikShoppe in Gasparillo.

No one complained that the post was not related to the group’s purpose and should be deleted as per the rules.

The group’s rules state: “Unrelated posts will be deleted. Only (posts showing) cars for sale will be accepted”.

Instead, within an hour she had to edit the post saying that the masks had been sold.

Up to Tuesday, people were still asking her if she had masks for sale.

This shows the lengths people are now willing to go to get face masks in T&T as demand has spiked due to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

AA Laquis, one of the largest distribution companies of medical supplies in the region has reported that it is out of stock of face masks.

The company said it saw an uptick in purchases of the masks in recent weeks following the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

AA Laquis said it placed an order for new masks from 3M but is uncertain about when that order would be filled.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the N95 mask is the most common type of the seven types of particulate-filtering facepiece respirators, filtering at least 95 per cent of airborne particles.

3M has five N95 products.

One of its most popular is the 3M Health Care Particulate Respirator and Surgical Mask 1860, N95 120 EA/Case.

“This health care particulate respirator and surgical mask helps provide respiratory protection against certain airborne biological particles. It is disposable and fluid resistant to splash and spatter of blood and other infectious material,” 3M stated.

“This healthcare respirator is designed to help provide respiratory protection for the wearer. It meets CDC guidelines for Mycobacterium tuberculosis exposure control. As a disposable particulate respirator, it is intended to help reduce wearer exposure to certain airborne particles including those generated by electrocautery, laser surgery, and other powered medical instruments. As a surgical mask, it is designed to be fluid resistant to splash and spatter of blood and other infectious materials,” it stated.

There are 20 face masks in a box.

AA Laquis said people have been buying the masks by the box as they try to protect themselves should the coronavirus reach T&T.

Other pharmacies around the country have also seen a shortage in the masks.

American multinational 3M has announced that it will increase production of its N95 face masks in response to an expected spike in demand due to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

It is still uncertain however how this increase in production will affect T&T as local pharmacies have already reported a shortage of masks here.

In T&T 3M is located along Jerningham Avenue in Belmont.

Questions emailed to 3M in T&T were not answered up to press time.

The shortage of face masks in T&T have been having a negative impact locally.

3M said its Aberdeen facility has the capability and experience to adapt production to demand.

Previous significant demand increases for the face masks were seen following the SARS, H1N1, and Ebola outbreaks as well as the Japanese Fukushima nuclear emergency.

The Aberdeen plant has over 650 employees and has increased production from a five-day schedule to a seven-day schedule.

United States Vice President Mike Pence said he would be visiting the 3M in Minnesota today.

“We are grateful for the work 3M is doing to aid in the coronavirus response as they work to produce protective equipment that will help keep our health care providers and those affected by the virus safe,” Pence tweeted on Tuesday.

Buying an N95 respirator mask is getting popular, thanks to the growing fear of the coronavirus.

The N95 respirator mask will only offer complete protection if it’s tightly sealed to your face.

A lot of experts feel these face masks are not foolproof.

The US Surgeon General took to Twitter, saying, “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!”. He clarified that masks are “NOT effective” in preventing the general population from catching the coronavirus. Hoarding masks means healthcare providers aren’t able to get face masks when they’re the ones who need them while caring for patients.

Head of the pharmacy board in T&T Andrew Rahaman said it appears that there is a shortage of face masks in T&T.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram however assured that the Health ministry has a supply of masks available for healthcare workers in the public sector.

Parasram said the country procured 25,000 about a month ago and a further 25,000 are expected shortly.

The price of disposable face masks is spiking online.

Amazon had largely sold out of different mask varieties.

Keepa, which tracks the prices of items sold on Amazon, shows that a 10-pack of 3M N95 respirators that sold for $18.20 roughly a month ago now costs $99.99.

Reports said one Amazon seller was offering a 30-pack of 3M N95 respirators for $198.98.

On eBay, a two-pack of 3M N95 face masks is available for $59.99. Other retailers typically sell a pair of masks for less than $6, but are currently out of stock.

Internationally, it was also reported that sales of Dettol and Lysol products have surged as the spread of the coronavirus continues.

The disinfectants are seen as providing protection against the spread of the disease, although its effectiveness has not yet been scientifically proven.

Alstons Marketing Company Limited (AMCO) is the distributor for Reckitt Benckiser products in T&T.

Questions emailed to AMCO were not answered up to press time.