Despite a surge in demand, US is refusing to take alternative masks to N95 respirators

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 31, 2020, 01.08 PM(IST) Edited By: Sonal Gera

Coronavirus in USA Photograph:( AFP )

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The only lacunae with KN95 masks, however, are — despite complying with norms — they are Chinese in origin and that they have not been certified by the US government.

The United States has blocked imports of what might be the world’s most abundant alternative to N95 respirator masks — KN95 masks — even as hospitals around the country desperately seek them to protect healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients.

The KN95 masks are designed to filter out at least 95 per cent of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger in size — the same measure used for the scarce N95 mask. Its structure also resembles N95’s — it fits around the nose and the mouth, decreasing the risk of infection.

The only lacunae with KN95 masks, however, are — despite complying with norms — they are Chinese in origin and that they have not been certified by the US government.

In fact, last week, to ease the national shortfall for the protective gear, the FDA issued an emergency authorisation for non-N95 respirators that had been certified by five foreign countries as well as the European Union. It conspicuously left the KN95 masks out of the emergency authorisation.

Without the FDA’s approval, the importers are scared to order these masks. And even the hospitals are refusing to accept them even as free donations — because they fear legal liability.

The N95 masks are usually sold in abundance, but in just two months, the coronavirus pandemic has depleted the world’s supply. This has led to the emergence of a gray market of counterfeit masks putting healthcare workers at serious risk of infection.