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Wed 29 Jan 2020 04:19 PM

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Dubai pharmacies see 'unprecedented demand' for face masks as virus hits UAE

Aster DM Healthcare says it is 'diligently' attempting to source for stock to meet demand

Dubai pharmacies see 'unprecedented demand' for face masks as virus hits UAE

Dubai pharmacies have seen “unprecedented” demand for face masks, with outlets attempting to source more stock to meet demand, as the first coronavirus cases in the UAE were confirmed on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health and Community Protection on Wednesday said members of a family arriving from the Chinese city of Wuhan had been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

It added that UAE health authorities have taken "all the necessary precautions in accordance with the scientific recommendations, conditions and standards approved by the World Health Organisation" and it “is not a cause for concern".

However, pharmacies in Dubai have reported a surge in demand for face masks, which retail for AED189 ($51.46) and some branches told The National website they had sold out of stock.

In a statement to Arabian Business, Jobilal Vavachan, CEO of Aster Pharmacy and Aster Clinics, which operates 111 clinics and 238 pharmacies in nine countries, said there has been “unprecedented demand for the N95 masks which are clinically proven to be able to support the reduction of virus spread”.

“Our supply team have been diligently attempting to source and procure new stock with our suppliers who are supporting as quickly as they can with production and shipment of significant quantities. We have of course a duty of care to protect our front line colleagues who look after the health of patients, so a quantity has been ring-fenced for our clinical and paramedical team to assure their safety. Our teams have been issued a procedure for caring for patients whilst also ensuring compliance with guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.

However, a spokesperson from Genano, the Finnish company that played a leading role in fighting the MERS virus in Saudi Arabia, told Arabian Business that face masks were not sufficient to prevent the spread of the virus.

Genano, which has had a base in the UAE for five years, has already sent over 200 of its air decontamination units to hospitals in China in a bid to bring the deadly coronavirus under control.

Mia Schauman, area manager, Gulf region, Genano, told Arabian Business: “It’s no use, because the virus is smaller than the mask and will go through.”

“The best mask that is available is a mask with a HEPA Filter and that will limit the size of microbes to 0.3, everything that is smaller than that will go through. The size of coronavirus is 0.1.”

The disease has spread to more than 15 countries since it emerged out of Wuhan late last year, with the death toll soaring to 132 and confirmed infections nearing 6,000.

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