KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The coronavirus outbreak is intensifying, and the availability of face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) has raised much concern in this country.
The government has adopted effective measures to ensure adequate supply of face masks and PPE through various channels in a bid to cope with the colossal challenge from the outbreak.
Front-line healthcare personnel, in particular, must be sufficiently protected to minimise their risk of infection.
Face masks have been selling like hot cakes at pharmacies and drugstores worldwide ever since the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Demand has far outstripped supply thanks to the rush buying. Although he government claims that it has taken the necessary actions to ensure the adequate supply of face masks to meet market demands, face masks are still nowhere in sight in many places.
The domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry recently upped the ceiling retail price of face masks to RM2 per piece while encouraging their imports to mitigate the acute shortage problem. However, as the ceiling price is still too high, many have grumbled. To make things worse, face masks are hardly available in the market these days.
The shortage problem needs to be resolved immediately. Prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has already instructed the domestic trade minister to negotiate with the manufacturers to ensure adequate supply of face masks at reasonable prices.
It is hoped that we will later see enough supply of face masks in the local market to meet the needs of all quarters.
The rush buying of face masks is understandable, but while worrying about the supply of face masks in the market, perhaps the authorities should be more concerned about the availability of face masks and PPE to our dedicated front-line personnel as they need them much more than the general public to stay safe and healthy in their highly dangerous life-saving missions.
Members of the public can stay home and avoid coming into contact with large crowds of people, but not these front-line folks who are forced to confront the virus.
When they are taking the enormous risks and bearing the insurmountable stress to fight the virus at the battlefront for all of us, this country is deeply obliged to take care of their personal safety and needs.
As the outbreak picks up in strength and the number of infected patients rises steeply, the supply of medical resources becomes increasingly tight. Face masks and PPE are in acute dearth, and the front-line fighters' needs and safety warrant our priority consideration.
Director-general of health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has urged Malaysians not to put on face masks unless absolutely necessary so that this precious commodity can be made available to the warriors at the forefront of the nation's war against the virus. It is hoped that the public will take heed of his advice.
It has been earlier reported that 19 healthcare personnel from the MOH and five from the private healthcare sector were confirmed with coronavirus infection. On Monday, another from Hospital Teluk Intan joined the list.
Healthcare personnel will invariably be exposed to much higher risk of infection if adequate protection is not offered to them. These people form a superlatively important defense line in our continuous fight against the virus.
Once the defence line is breached, our entire medical system will collapse and the consequences could be unimaginable.
They are fighting an extremely demanding war. Being highly exposed to grave dangers, they should get the priority in face mask and PPE allocation.
The authorities are duty-bound to do their utmost to make sure none of our front-line fighters fall.
Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.