Scientists in Hong Kong have invented a cheap and easy way to make home-made masks as the city, gripped by fear over the deadly coronavirus, suffers from long queues and price-gouging over its dwindling supplies of protective gear.
The University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital worked with the Science Park to devise the do-it-yourself method as thousands of people have waited overnight outside pharmacies promising new stock and costs spiking to as much as HK$400 or more for a box of 50 surgical masks. Often missing from the queues are many elderly – too weak or poor to join – some of whom have resorted to steaming the few masks they have left or and reusing one for days.
“I hope this can alleviate the public panic. Scientific tests found these home-made masks can offer a certain extent of protection if one doesn’t have a mask at home,” executive councillor and Elderly Commission chairman Dr Lam Ching-choi said.
“It’s not good for elderly to take such risks as queuing for a mask in the early morning.”
Lam said he was in touch with some schools to explore whether students studying at home could help produce more masks, adding that Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, the city’s top microbiologist tackling the coronavirus, had also endorsed the use of such masks.m
Releasing the procedure on Friday, the hospital said it hoped the home-made gear could serve as a temporary measure for those without surgical masks, easing the pressure on the city’s remaining stock.
Joe Fan King-man, the institution’s assistant hospital chief executive, said the home-made masks had undergone laboratory tests by City University and were proven to have achieved 80 to 90 per cent of the function of regular surgical masks in terms of their filtration of aerosol and droplets.
However, Fan said they did not serve as a permanent substitute for surgical masks.
“The home-made masks can only act as an alternative for those who don’t have any gear but need to protect themselves from infection. They can never be a substitute or replacement for surgical masks,” he said.
The Consumer Council is a partner of the project.