Oman pharmacies run out of face masks

Medical face masks have been flying off pharmacy shelves over the last several days with consumers stocking up on this protective item as a safeguard against potential exposure to the deadly novel coronavirus behind the pandemic currently sweeping across large swathes of the world.
Several outlets visited by Observer in Muscat Governorate reported they have run out of ordinary surgical marks in the wake of a scramble by consumers triggered by the global pandemic.
“People have been buying face masks in bulk primarily with the goal of carting them to the native countries in anticipation of a shortage back home. We are now waiting for fresh stocks from suppliers but because demand is similarly strong in other countries as well, it could be a while before manufacturers ramp up production to meet this exponential growth in demand,” an employee at the outlet of a leading pharmacy chain in Al Khuwair told this newspaper.
Relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use, surgical face masks are the protective gear of choice for millions of passengers flying in and out of destinations that have reported coronavirus infections since the outbreak began last month. Although not 100 per cent effective against disease causing airborne organisms, they provide a degree of protection against droplets forced out from an infected person’s mouth or nose during a sneeze or cough.
A survey of drugstores in the Al Khuwair and Al Ghubra districts of the capital region reveals that many outlets ran out of face masks well before the weekend, coinciding with the World Health Organization’s declaration of the outbreak originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan, as a public health emergency.
“One expatriate family picked up six boxes ahead of their travel abroad, apparently for distribution among family members and friends in India,” said a pharmacist. “Many of the customers are expatriates, indicating that they are preparing to travel overseas and likely to countries that have reported infections.”
Also in short supply in were the N95 respirator masks which, although pricier, are billed as more effective in preventing the accidental ingress of fluids sneezed out or coughed out by an infected person. The tight-fitting N95 mask gets its name from the fact that it can keep out 95 per cent of airborne particles from accidental inhalation through the mouth or nose.