The Pandemic Changes Daily Life & Brings in New Dress Codes
The corona virus pandemic has irreversibility changed public life. Profound impact is already seen in the way governments, companies and people behave. Among the many ways in which COVID-19 has changed human behavior are social distancing; working from home; avoiding crowded public places; and wearing face masks. As masks become the new norm, the pandemic is pushing us into a faceless future. To give the economy a fighting chance to heal and recover, countries are cautiously easing lockdown despite the risk of the rise in infections. As society begins to revive, the post COVID life will bear no resemblance to the pre-COVID period. Facial masks are emerging into the new dress code for people all over the world. As economies reopen and people begin going back to work, face masks will grow in importance given their role in preventing a second wave of infections. Also, masks will help give people the confidence needed to step out-of-doors. Against this backdrop, the global market for disposable masks is projected to accelerate at a CAGR of 5.4% to reach US$28.8 billion by the year 2027. The biggest growth spikes are expected in the years 2020 and 2021 at 396.6% and 18. 2% CAGR respectively. Disposable masks especially surgical face masks have today become a symbol of the times to come i. e. more frequent pandemics and rising air pollution. Surgical face masks hitherto used exclusively by doctors and hospital staff are today in demand by general public as the health crisis deepens with the relentless march of the pandemic across 160+ countries. Surgical and medical grade masks have become staple Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare, sanitation workers and people in general. While controversy over the effectiveness of face masks continue, they have nevertheless become symbolic of the human desire to take some kind of action to stay protected knowing there is no cure for the disease.
Supply Shortages Sends the World Scrambling to Respond
The sudden spike in demand has created a critical shortage of face masks the world over. This is resulting in a mass movement to home sew reusable facemasks. Fashion brands are voluntarily foraying into the production of face masks and medical gowns on a war footing to bridge the demand and supply gaps. Despite ramping up of production capacities by all manufacturers, demand for disposable face masks will continue to exceed production capacity. The severity of shortages can be put into perspective by the fact that the U. S. the worst affected by the pandemic in the world, added 156 million face masks to the Strategic National Stockpile in 2006 due to fears of flu pandemic, and since then failed to replenish supply triggering a stark shortage of face masks in 2020. In addition, France did not replenish its face mask stocks since 2011 and now depends mainly on China as well as just-in-time logistics for its needs. The COVID-19 outbreak left the country with national shortage of surgical and FFP2 masks and associated medical supplies. With a phenomenal demand for 40 million masks per week, the country has now instructed mask manufacturers ramp up production capacity to ensure availability of 40 million masks per month.
While China Positions Itself as a Global Savior, Can it Be Trusted?
Staging an early recovery from the pandemic, China’s restarting of medical masks production for global exports offers hope in easing the pressure at least partially. However, the increase in claims of faulty masks produced and exported by the country is aggravating existing woes especially among desperate hospital staff. Some of the common issues reported by importing countries include improper fit, sub-standard products and faulty filters. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, China held a 50% share of the global surgical masks production, manufacturing close to 20 million face masks daily and Taiwan accounts for 20% of the global face masks supply. Other major countries with considerable PPE manufacturing capacity include Thailand, Mexico, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, India, the US, and some EU countries. Subsequent to the COVID-19 outbreak, China enhanced its masks production over five-fold, with a daily production of 110 million units. Quality issues associated with Chinese made masks are encouraging indigenous innovation among local manufacturers. 3M, for instance, deployed robots for dealing with worker shortage, while other companies are resorting to thinking out-of-the-box to overcome challenges. Under Arm our, Inc. unveiled the idea of no-sew masks. The sportswear company started making disposable masks with a single fabric piece, without the need for any sewing, which reduced requirement of manpower.