We recommend to dramatically increase the national production of masks, by encouraging and incentivising industrial players to participate.
Why develop national production?
As soon as the use of masks become mandatory, everyone could make their own mask..
Even though homemade protections have a positive impact in slowing down the propagation of the epidemic (see below), they are not at par with certified masks. It is therefore necessary to ramp up the availability of masks of industrial grade.
The supply chain, especially for imports, is under severe pressure even before any obligation to wear masks in public. This being necessary until a vaccine becomes available or herd immunity kicks in - which will take several months - relying on imports and a token local production is not sustainable.
If homemade masks' filtration effictiveness is estimated around 50% (depending on the materials used and the presence of a filter or not), disposable surgical masks reach circa 65% and FFP2/N95 95%.
The higher the efficiency, the better the chance to limit the reach of the epidemic and its rate of replication.
How many masks?
Masks and facial protections, whatever their type, cannot be used more than 4 to 6 hours. As they are required only for public and other high risk areas, one to tow masks per person would be required on average. That would mean circa 60 to 100 millions masks per day for a country the size of France or the UK.
In reality, in countries where the use of masks is widespread, masks are being reused, either by waiting a few days or washing them in between, with the risk of reducing their efficiency, however. The number of masks to manufacture is thus actually much lower.
We therefore recommend a combinations of masks, homemade at first then gradually replaced by disposable and reusable ones. Playing with the mix, the required supply will vary. A manufacturing capacity of 15 millions masks per day, combined with one reusable mask per inhabitant, could be adequate for a country the size of France or the UK.
More sophisticated masks based on innovative materials and technology will be needed for confined spaces where safe distance between workers is not possible. Many companies already use those and organize themselves their supply or even their own manufacturing.
Advanced reusable/washable masks would present three advantages:
- With greater added value, they are more likely to be manufactured locally.
- They would substitute a significant number of disposable masks.
- It is a more sustainable solution over the course of the pandemic.
Some countries have taken steps to increase their production. The first supplier of masks worldwide is of course China, whose production went from 10 to 150 millions per day in February.
Even though no recent statistics are available, based on the fact that China exported 2 billion disposable masks in the last two weeks on top of supplying virtually 100% of their population, one can estimate their current production figures at above 500 millions per day,
An example is the car manufacturer BYD who went from zero to 5 millions masks per day and currently manufactures 15 millions masks per day.(read).
In Japan, Softbank drew on BYD manufacturing capacity in China to add 10m masks a day to those produced locally (read).
There are other initiatives to increase mask production across the world. In Morocco for instance, manufacturing has reached 5 million per day and keeps increasing as the use of masks, now made compulsory is a centre piece of the fight against the virus. (read).