COVID-19: Fake N95 masks take over Indian markets amid surge in infections
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected millions of lives across the world with health officials globally stressing the public to wear face masks or coverings to protect themselves and others from virus transmission. As the COVID-19 outbreak began around the world, demand for N95 masks also increased across all sections of society leading to a global shortage of respirators.
With a surge in demand for N96 masks, a number of manufacturers are jumping at the opportunity to produce similar masks for profits. According to reports, more than 100 manufacturers have emerged in the past three months in India. However, some of them are counterfeiting brands.
Experts have asserted that fake masks can pose a severe danger to the health and lives of people. Sanjeev Relhan, Chairman of the Preventive Wear Manufacturers Association of India, spoke to Indian media, calling for manufacturers to tackle illegitimate mask manufacturers and boost the supply of genuine masks for the welfare of citizens amid pandemic crisis.
In a bid to tackle the production of faulty masks, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has to take adequate action against the makers. Since the surge in the Coronavirus outbreak in India in April 2020, the review of medical masks in the country has been under the CDSCO. It is also important for manufacturers to routinely test their masks in laboratories to ensure standards like IS:9473 are followed. However, for this purpose, mask manufacturers require access to laboratories.
There are several companies such as BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) across national agencies certifying masks that meet the standards for effective N95 masks. Noting a surge in demand for N95 masks, two other government agencies – South Indian Textile Research Agency (SITRA) in Coimbatore, and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-affiliated facility in Gwalior – have also begun testing the masks. But, these two agencies offer only one-time testing and not a certification for the products. Unfortunately, many Indian companies get their masks tested by SITRA and DRDO claiming that they have achieved certification. Taking cognizance of the matter, both agencies have warned against such manufacturers as they go on duping healthcare workers and other companies into buying fake N95 masks claiming that the product has been “certified” by SITRA and DRDO.
To curb the spread of Coronavirus transmission in India, the Central government has mandated all citizens to use face masks or coverings in public. Since April 1, the Modi government has distributed more than 2.02 crore N95 masks to various states, union territories, and central institutions.
The number of virus-infected cases in India has crossed one million with more than 6.5 lakh people recovering from the virus.