The rising demand for personal protective safety equipment, owing to the increasing prevalence of airborne diseases and higher adoption rates of masks due to growing awareness of the protective devices, will fuel the demand for the N95 masks across the globe. According to the World Health Organization WHO, air pollution causes around 7 million deaths worldwide due to high levels of pollutants that cause respiratory disorders.
The exhalation valve segment is anticipated to grab the largest market share, owing to substantial benefits associated with the devices. The masks help to reduce sweat and make it easy for breathing. As it is a consumer-centric product, it helps to raise the market demand. Besides, the product has been improvised by the addition of removal and re-attachment features, facilitating seamless attachment to any non-valve equipped N95 masks. Moreover, the newer upgradations in the product have enhanced the capability of re-usability that ultimately reduces costs to consumers, owing to increased shelf-life. The exhalation valves throw out the environmental waste from the mask.
The masks without the exhalation valve consist of layers of filters and straps. They are cheaper in costs as compared to the exhalation valve, but it has been observed that there is a breathing difficulty in such mask types. Hence, it has less demand compared to masks with exhalation valves.
Considering the fact that the N95 mask can be one of the preventive measures in the protection and spread of the coronavirus, the prevailing pandemic situation is boosting the N95 mask market demand.
The public health officials are warning that stringent trade measures associated with the medical supplies worsen the shortfall and generates risk, making poorer nations more vulnerable to the coronavirus spread. In countries like Japan, doctors are directed towards reusing the N95 masks due to shortage and lack of supply. The population can support healthcare professionals by not creating an artificial shortage of such critical products.
Based on the production side in the worldwide market, it will be a strong challenge for the personal protective equipment (PPE) industry to meet the rising demand for face masks as the outbreak is spreading. As of now, China produces 200 million N95 masks per day. The production is 20 times more as compared to February. Among 200 million masks, only 6,00,000 are N95 standard masks; shortage still exists.
In the U.S., the government has not officially banned mask exports. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is committed to importing 500 million N95 respiratory masks over the next year. Moreover, the plan is to support the domestic manufacturer. There is a price estimation of more than USD 200 for a box of 10 N95 face masks in the U.S. The prices have been soaring in light of severe scarcity.
The shortage of N95 masks has affected many clinics and hospitals in Germany whose health system is considered among the best worldwide. In order to avoid this, there are big calls for the central procurement authority; the German government opened processes for tenders that will tackle the administrative barriers and focus on speeding up the delivery. Under the process, suppliers must supply a minimum of 25,000 pieces of masks that guarantees a minimum standard quality and seamless arrangement for the delivery. Additionally, there is an assurance of standard prices for all domestic and international suppliers for protective masks. Furthermore, the government plans to establish a federal agency that will direct with the production and distribution of the masks across Germany.
As per the CDC, on April 01, 2020, in the United States’ total cases for COVID-19 recorded were 186,100. Moreover, total deaths were 3,603. The typical supply chain for getting N95 masks to the American hospital should be improvised for addressing the soaring demand. This can be done by foreseeing the demand by creating contracts with the hospitals. Also, a medical supply company should place an order of masks directly with the overseas partner factory or through an intermediary supplier. Those hundreds of thousands of masks are ideally supplied to the destination through the sea route.
According to the Premier on April 01, 2020, the shortage of N95 masks is becoming critical, as 23% of hospitals stated that they are utilizing 100 masks a day by further leaving them for inventory, which will take another 10 days. In Washington State, two previous requests have been filed for the supplies of N95 masks, which delivered 870,000 surgical and N95 masks. Face masks are of low value and can be easily shipped, also well suited for offshoring at cheaper rates in America.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service figure states that 95% of the surgical masks and 70% of the tighter fitting respirators that integrate N95 masks are manufactured overseas. The material used to make these masks are produced overseas, especially in China.
As per the Government of Canada, on April 01, 2020, confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded were 9,595. Deaths recorded as of now are 109. With no domestic production of crucial N95 masks for the healthcare workers on the COVID-19, Canada’s federal government is bulk-buying tens of millions of masks from the international markets to meet the alarming demand. Further, the Canadian government announced to spend USD 2 billion to procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that includes more than 60 million on N95 masks for Canada’s emergency preparedness.
Furthermore, Ottawa also asserted to spend USD 2 billion for the N95 masks. Ottawa will help direct the Canadian manufacturers to speed up the production for the medical supplies in Canada.
In India, there are only two companies that manufacture these N95 masks and are involved in large exports for industrial usage in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and the U.S. Presently, India is using this as a preventive measure to tackle the outbreak of the virus. India put a ban on the exports of the personal protective equipment that integrates surgical masks, gloves, and N95 respirators. However, on February 08, 2020, the nation lifted the restriction on gloves and surgical masks but continued with the ban on N95 respirators.
The production of N95 masks in China is on the rise. China used to produce half of the world’s masks before the COVID-19 virus emergence. The government is striving to scale up the production rate. According to the National Development and Reform Commission, daily production of the N95 masks was 10 million before the outbreak of the COVID-19, which rose to 116 million. Even with the daily output of 116 million productions, the country is still facing a shortage.
Currently, China has 38 million people working in the healthcare sector, transportation, and manufacturing sector. China Medical Pharmaceutical Material Association estimates that manufacturers still need to produce roughly 230 million N95 masks for its domestic market.
There exist, on the other hand, some technical limits. The production of the facemasks, such as the N95 respirator masks, which requires polypropylene, a special fabric required for manufacturing, is facing a crisis and has a short supply.
The dependence on China and few other countries for N95 masks has prompted the entire world to reorganize the supply chain. The World Medical Association that represents physicians suggested that the governments should establish factories in prominent markets like the E.U. and the U.S. to ensure an adequate supply of medical necessities.
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On March 24, 2020, 3M entered into a partnership with Ford to increase the production of 3M’s powered-air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) to tackle the shortages caused on account of the coronavirus outbreak. Under this partnership, 3M plans to double the global output of the N95 masks — more than 1.1 billion respirators every year or nearly 100 million per month.
On March 30, 2020, Honeywell announced the expansion of manufacturing facilities in Phoenix to produce N95 masks in favor of the U.S. government’s response to tackling coronavirus. The expansion will result in the production of more than 20 million disposable N95 masks monthly to combat COVID-19.
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