Jakarta – The Health Ministry says a shortage of face masks in most cities in Indonesia was triggered by a hoax, instead of concerns over the coronavirus spread.
The ministry was convinced that the hoax made people panic, causing the uncontrolled buying of face masks. Some even turned to hoarding.
"It is because there are more hoax 'viruses' [instead of actual viruses]," said Wiendra Waworuntu, the ministry's communicable disease prevention and control director, in Jakarta on Tuesday, as quoted by Antara.
Wiendra said the new virus had not reached Indonesia. However, the ministry recommends those with severe coughs to wear face masks, while those who are healthy should avoid being near sick people.
"There has been a misconception [in public] that wearing a mask is a basic need. In fact, the basic needs are consuming nutritious food in a balanced diet, getting enough rest and, if you are feeling not well, immediately check yourself into a health facility," he added.
According to Wiendra, it was urgent for Indonesia to be better at handling the spread of tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other deadly infectious diseases.
In addition to that, Wiendra said that masks can be used by those who want to avoid polluted air. However, those who are healthy do not need surgical masks.
Sales of surgical masks have surged in the country since the news broke of the coronavirus, which was first found in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.
According to sellers in Pramuka Market in Jakarta, the sales of protective face masks had tripled. Meanwhile, the KN95 respirator face masks have become scarce in the market.
The coronavirus plague in China has spread to 27 countries. The outbreak has killed 427 people worldwide as of Tuesday, Reuters reported.
The World Health Organization has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency and experts say much is still unknown about the pathogen, including its mortality rate and transmission routes. (gis)