DHAKA (THE DAILY STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - We are alarmed at the way unauthorised factories are producing thousands of low-quality face masks and selling them in wholesale markets.
As the number of coronavirus patients is increasing in the country during winter, there is also a growing demand for face masks among people.
Taking this as an opportunity, many unscrupulous garment factories are producing substandard products in unhygienic conditions.
According to a report by The Daily Star on Thursday (Jan 7), many people in Kamrangirchar, Keraniganj, Gazipur, Narayanganj, and Savar are involved in the production of these low-grade, non-woven surgical masks with no idea about the safety guidelines that need to be maintained while working on them.
What is basically happening is these people are getting contracts from small local factories which do not provide them with any guidelines on what conditions these masks should be made.
The factories supply these masks to the local market from where wholesale buyers purchase them in bulk at cheap rates, without any packaging, and later sell them in the capital and other areas.
Needless to say, these face masks will actually increase the risk of infection as they have not been made maintaining the strict hygiene required for such protective gear.
Those wearing them will be doing so with a false sense of security and will be more vulnerable in terms of catching the virus and will also be easily transmitting it to others.
According to the authorised mask producers, this unhygienic production has put the sector at risk as high-quality masks made by maintaining health safety measures cannot compete with the cheap, low-quality ones.
What we do not understand is how these factories can produce substandard surgical masks without the authorisation of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA).
Also, why is there such hype among people to wear surgical medical masks when, for the common people, it is more than enough to wear a three-layer fine cotton mask, which can be used repeatedly?
The government needs to give strict, clear guidelines on the use of masks and other safety measures that should be followed by people at large.
As low-quality masks are one of the prime reasons behind the rising number of infections in the country, according to health experts, their use should be stopped.
The DGDA should immediately take action against the unauthorised factories taking advantage of the crisis.
Also, if the government gives specific guidelines to people to start wearing cotton masks, instead of surgical masks, these unethical businesses by garment factories may stop to some extent.
The Daily Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.