Lalitpur to make face masks amid shortageCity plans to sell the cotton masks for Rs5 and Rs7 apiece, much less than its cost price of Rs17.
In a bid to address a shortage of surgical masks amid the increasing Covid-19 fears, the Lalitpur Metropolitan City is set to manufacture cloth masks in all of its 29 wards and distribute to each household at a minimal cost, beginning Friday.
People in the City can purchase the cloth masks made up of pure cotton in a price range of Rs5 to Rs7.
With the threat of the latest coronavirus viral strain looming, the City is the first local body in the country to take the initiative to manufacture face masks. In the first phase, the City plans to distribute masks to 100,000 households, which is the total number of houses in its metropolitan area, according to its spokesperson Raju Maharjan.
On Wednesday, 30 women from Wards 1 to 15 were given mask-making training at the City’s Social Welfare Council office in Pulchowk, while the training in the remaining wards will be held on Thursday.
“Each ward will start manufacturing the masks from Friday,” said Maharjan.
Last week, after a shortage of surgical masks was reported, Patan and Civil Service hospitals started making cloth masks for the hospitals’ staff.
Having set a target of producing 10,000 masks a day, the City has already launched a two-day sewing and tailoring training for 58 women under the City’s Social Welfare Council.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, in December last year, countries like China and India, on which Nepal relies heavily on protective gear such as face masks, gloves, and caps, have prohibited their exports.
“We want to raise awareness among people. This will also help check on the black marketeering of face masks. The shopkeepers are overcharging gullible people when the threat of such a communicable disease is looming,” said Mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan.
On Wednesday, when the Post visited various medical shops to inquire about the masks, none of the pharmacies and surgical shops had surgical masks to sell. There has been a shortage of face masks for the past two weeks, shop owners said. However, some errant shopkeepers are selling surgical masks at high prices.
This week, the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection Management fined Rs200,000 each to four errant stores—Bidya Alka Pharmacy Unit (1), Pulchowk; Gautam Pharmacy and Diagnostic Centre, Pulchowk; Sadikshya Medical Hall, Jawalakhel and Shuva Surgical Suppliers, Kupondol, under the Consumer Protection Act 2018. Those pharmacies were found selling surgical masks for Rs150 apiece.
“I paid Rs70 for a piece of face mask which at other times would cost Rs10. The initiative taken by the metropolitan city is praiseworthy. This will make people feel relieved,” said Sangita Timilsena, 27, from Dholahiti, Lalitpur.
At a City’s board meeting on Tuesday, the City plans to sell the cloth mask for Rs5 to Rs7 apiece, much less than the cost price of Rs17. The City plans to use funds from its Disaster Risk Reduction Centre to subsidise the cost of the face masks. The City has formed such centres in each ward.
Dinesh Karki, coordinator at the Social Development Committee under the City, said the money collected from selling masks will be used for the production of cloth masks, made up of cotton cloth manufactured within the country.
Sunita Shrestha, 40, designer of the cloth face masks, said she had trained nearly three dozen women to sew the masks.
“It’s not a difficult job, and those who came for the training were very happy to learn the skills to make face masks at the time of a crisis,” said Shrestha.
The World Health Organization suggests wearing face masks if anyone around them is coughing or sneezing. They are effective only when hands are cleaned frequently with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
However, some media reports have said face masks are not an iron-clad guarantee for preventing Covid-19 infections.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of April 4, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 204 countries and infected more than 1,098,762 people with 59,172 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 2,686 with 40 deaths. While India has reported 2,547 confirmed cases with 62 deaths. Nepal has so far reported six cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.