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The New Arab

China orders 145 million masks from Egypt to tackle coronavirus epidemic

Protective mask sales have surged since the coronavirus outbreak hit [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 February, 2020

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Egypt produces 60 million protective masks a year. China has requested more than double that amount in a matter of days.
Amid the outbreak of coronavirus and the surrounding panic, sales of protective face masks are surging, and nowhere more so than China.

Following policies such as mask rationing and a ban on exports of the medical garb, China is now sending off orders for millions of the protective devices from a host of other countries, including Egypt and Kuwait.

China has requested 145 million masks from Egypt to be exported in the coming days, Ali Ouf, the Director of Medicines in the Egyptian Chamber of Commerce announced on Tuesday.

The lucrative order means Egyptian manufacturers - who usually produce 60 million masks per year - must significantly ramp up their production levels. In fact most years, Egypt imports most of its masks from China.

Prices, too, are skyrocketing in many parts of East Asia, where demand outstrips supply.

According to Ouf, while the price of normal masks, which prevent dust and other large particles from entering the respiratory system, have increased twofold, the price of the more sophisticated N95 masks - which can prevent virus particles entering the body - has risen even more. 

Kuwaiti companies are also cashing in on the epidemic, having already shipped 8 million masks to China, according to local media. Some manufacturers raised their prices two-fold to take advantage of China's crisis.

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Neither Egypt nor Kuwait have yet to register their first case of the virus, which has so far killed over 425 people and infected over 20,000, nearly all of them in and around China's Hubei province.

The first reported case in the Middle East was in the UAE, which now has five confirmed cases, all of whom are Chinese nationals.

At least 95 Yemenis fleeing China over fears of the deadly virus entered the country's southern city of Aden on Saturday, without any medical testing, triggering fears of an outbreak in the war-torn country. The passengers travelled on a Yemeni airline via the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

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