The government yesterday assured healthcare personnel and state officials and volunteers at high risk of contracting the new coronavirus that they will now have a sufficient supply of face masks.
A total of 2.3 million surgical masks are currently being produced daily and distributed to healthcare personnel and other people needing them for their work, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Monday.
Of the total, 1.3 million masks are being distributed by the Public Health Ministry to healthcare personnel at state-run hospitals nationwide and the other 1 million by the Interior Ministry to the provinces, he said.
In a distribution system he pledged was now totally accountable, Mr Wissanu said 40 Thailand Post lorries have been assigned to transport the face masks from the factories to their destinations.
Those receiving face masks from the Interior Ministry include health volunteers and local health officials monitoring people undergoing self-quarantine in the provinces, he said.
Others eligible to receive free face masks from the ministry include refuse collectors and security officials working at checkpoints across the country.
General consumers, however, were asked to be patient and wait a few more days until the government could begin to divert stocks to local shops, he said.
As for N95 masks, 400,000 of them have been procured from China in a government-to-government deal costing 1.5 billion baht to compensate for dwindling supplies from the American multinational conglomerate 3M Company, said Dr Sukhum Kanchanapimai, permanent secretary for public health.
It is estimated that for every Covid-19 patient, medical professionals need 15 N95 masks, according to Dr Sukhum.
Therefore, if the country is projected to have 10,000 more infections to treat, 500,000 more N95 masks will be needed, he added.
According to a Facebook post by Dr Kunchit Piyavechviratana, an internal medicine expert, the country remains short of N95 masks given the fact that a number of medical staff were still having to reuse the same masks repeatedly when dealing with Covid-19 patients.
For their own safety, medical staff handling these patients should adopt the recommended airborne disease protective measure protocol, in which N95 masks, for instance, should be used only once and immediately be disposed of, he said.
In his post on Sunday, Dr Kunchit said large hospitals and teaching hospitals might now have enough N95 masks, but several small hospitals and healthcare centres in the provinces were still short of them despite the growing number of cases in their areas.
And while large hospitals were receiving N95 donated by private parties, small state-run hospitals have been told not to go public in asking for donations, according to Dr Kunchit.
He urged large hospitals to consider giving some of their masks to smaller hospitals located near them.