Forum: Singapore should produce its own masks

Travelers and airport staff wear protective masks at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Feb 6, 2020.
Travelers and airport staff wear protective masks at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Feb 6, 2020.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Foxconn, the maker of Apple's iPhone and other consumer electronics products, is taking the unusual step to produce surgical masks, which is not its core business.

Foxconn has about one million workers in mainland China. It argues that the masks are needed to protect its workers as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus. They cannot depend on other mask suppliers to resolve the shortage.

Foxconn expects to produce two million masks a day by the end of the month. If they have excess capacity, they plan to export or sell them to the domestic market.

US carmaker General Motors is doing the same. Its Chinese joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling announced that it will put up 14 automated lines with the goal of making 1.7 million masks a day.

If these private companies can produce surgical masks with the aim of protecting their workers, shouldn't we as a nation do the same to protect our citizens?

We should not think whether the production of these surgical masks would be a viable business but instead consider it a national health safety issue.

David Kong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore should produce its own masks'. Print Edition | Subscribe