Nina A. Loasana, Jakarta – Jakartans have been struggling to get hold of surgical and N95 masks as sellers run out and prices skyrocket.
The demand for N95 masks, a type of face mask that can filter out 95 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns from the air, has significantly increased over the past few weeks as concerns about the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak intensifies in the capital city.
Ainie Partono, a 32-year-old office worker from Jakarta said she had been searching for N95 masks in online marketplaces for the past several days to no avail.
"I ordered twenty masks from an online marketplace several days ago but my order was suddenly cancelled as the shop had run out of stock," Ainie told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Ainie said she had bought N95 masks last year because she was concerned about severe air pollution in the capital city.
"I planned to buy the masks again as a precaution for the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, some of my fellow office workers had also asked me to buy the masks for them since they too were concerned about the outbreak," she said.
Ainie said she had been unable to buy the masks. She said there were several online shops with N95 masks still in stock but that the skyrocketing prices, which she said did "not make any sense", prevented her from purchasing them.
She said she bought three N95 masks online last year for Rp 45,000 (US$3). However, the same shop was now selling the set of three masks for Rp 1.4 million.
Another resident, 26-year-old private company employee Juliana Ekaputri also shared the same story. Juli said she decided to buy the N95 masks after news outlets reported on suspected coronavirus cases in Jakarta and Bandung, West Java, several days ago.
"Not long after the news, I got an internal memo from my office urging all employees to buy N95 masks. But I still can't get any."
Supplies of surgical masks and N95 masks have also started to run out in markets across the capital city. A medical supplies vendor at Pramuka Market in Matraman, Jakarta, complained that the masks were getting harder to find due to rising demand after the coronavirus outbreak in China.
"After the coronavirus became a hot topic after Chinese New Year, we started to run out of stock to sell. N95 masks are usually for factory workers so they are supposed to be better [than regular surgical masks], and even at their factories they have started to run out," Aya, one of the vendors at Pramuka Market, said on Wednesday, as reported by kompas.com.
Even regular surgical masks were hard to come by at the market. Aya said the only masks left in her store were regular masks.
Global demand for surgical masks has soared, leaving many stores in short supply and residents struggling to obtain them, the South China Morning Post reported on Friday.
In Hong Kong, supplies of N95 masks are running low, with some retailers doubling or tripling the price of the masks that remain in stock.
Thousands of Hong Kong residents lined up in front of local pharmacy chain stores on Thursday after the franchise announced it would provide a limited supply of masks at 230 of its stores.
"I lined up here at 2 a.m. this morning, so I've been waiting six or seven hours to get the masks," Berry So said in a video report by the South China Morning Post.
In Japan, the demand for masks jumped after it was confirmed that four citizens had been infected with the virus. Some retailers said their mask sales had tripled from the previous week.
In Sydney, a number of people lined up outside of drugstores to buy masks.
Cui Yanzhao, general manager of Nanhai Nanxin non-Woven Co Ltd, a China-based company that produces raw material for surgical masks, said that over the last few days, orders for masks material had been larger than the company's average total monthly orders.
Some Jakarta residents have also taken extra measures to prepare for the worst-case scenario of the coronavirus outbreak.
Fadila Paramitha, 29, an office worker living in South Jakarta said she had bought masks, hand sanitizer and canned foods.
"I bought a box of 50 surgical masks last week. I usually wear masks to protect me from air pollution, but I think I need to wear them more often now that I've heard about the coronavirus outbreak," she told the Post on Friday.
Fadila said she had stocked up on canned foods after massive black outs in the capital city in August. "I live in Kalibata, so massive incidents in Jakarta like student rallies, floods and black outs have affected me."
The new strand of coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, is an airborne virus that attacks the respiratory system.
The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency as the death toll rises. As of Friday, the virus has claimed 213 lives and has infected 9,692 people in China. Indonesia has no confirmed cases as of Friday.