Rome “FFP3” is in short supply in Italy. The protective mask, which filters 98 percent of the air we breathe and is certified with a European standard, has hardly been found since the outbreak of the corona virus.
Not even the “FFP2” model, which filters 92 percent of the air we breathe, as the association of manufacturers and distributors of protective devices explains. Large signs in Italian and English have been stuck to most pharmacies for days: “No more masks in stock”.
Angelo Borrelli, the head of civil defense, needs five million pieces. He has already asked for help from the EU. Because Covid-19 keeps Italy in suspense. On Wednesday afternoon it was still considered whether all schools in the country might be closed until March 15th.
There is no general confiscation of all protective masks as ordered by French President Emanuel Macron on Tuesday in Italy. Borrelli, who announces the state of the spread of Covid-19 every day at 6 p.m., said the masks are needed for hospital staff.
Research on washable masks
The manufacturers drive special shifts. “We work around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Massimo Scagliarini to the Handelsblatt. He is the head of GVS, one of the market leaders in the healthcare industry, with sales of 230 million euros in 2019. “We can hardly keep up, orders from all over the world have increased by 200 percent since the beginning of the year compared to the entire previous year,” he says.
The family-owned company, which was founded in 1979 in a garage in the hinterland of Bologna, today has 2500 employees in 13 production facilities and exports 94 percent of its products. The demand for protective masks had increased exponentially some time before the outbreak of Covid-19, Scagliarini reports. So far, these have mainly been used in occupational safety.
The company is now setting up three new production lines to increase production. Then 450,000 FFP3 protective masks should leave the factories in addition to the one million to date.
The company is also researching washable and therefore reusable masks. The virus is eliminated with temperatures above 50.5 degrees, says the CVS-Boss. A normal 60 degree wash would be sufficient. “I expect we’ll have a solution in about ten days.”
Other manufacturers such as the entrepreneur Pier Palo Zani are also working under high pressure. His start-up company BLS, which works with the Milan Polytechnic, is busy. “In February, ten times as many masks were ordered as usual throughout the year,” he says.
Profiteering with fear
And he protests against profiteers. This is because protective masks are offered online at exorbitant prices. “99.90 euros for five pieces of the FFP3 model” can be found there as an offer. A completely exorbitant price for a face mask that costs a few euros in normal times. Ten pieces of the FFP2 model cost 56 euros plus 18 euros in shipping costs. Amazon is already alarmed.
The profiteering with the fear of the people is flourishing. First it was the tourists from China who are now absent. Then a lot of Italians walking around in the metro or on the bus wearing masks.
Science is against it. “Protective masks for healthy people are completely superfluous, they do not help at all,” says Walter Ricciardi, medical professor in Milan, member of the World Health Organization and advisor to the Ministry of Health. “The masks are needed for sick people and healthcare personnel.”
This is also said by Andrea Spasciani, head of the company of the same name near Varese. People shouldn’t buy these products, he says. “The few supplies left should go to doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers.”
And to our own people: “We wear all masks at work, in production and in the offices,” says GVS boss Scagliarini. “If we had even a suspicion of Corona here – not imaginable.”
More: In Germany there is a restriction to exports such as disinfectants and respirators. This is intended to ensure care for hospitals and health organizations. More in the news blog.