People line up at Vancouver International Airport Jan. 31, 2020. Media images of people wearing masks have fuelled hoarding and reselling of them, but public health officials say they don’t help healthy people. (The Canadian Press)

Myth of medical masks drives profiteering in B.C. COVID-19 battle

Premier John Horgan warns of ‘crackdown’ on ‘profiteers’

Images of people walking around with medical-style face masks have fed a black market for them, but the sudden popularity hasn’t helped public health in the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry has been asked frequently about the value of N95 masks, so named because they stop 95 per cent of particles three microns or bigger. A coronavirus particle is one to two microns in size, and Canadian and U.S. public health authorities don’t recommend them for general consumer use. The standard disposable masks stop most droplets coming out of your mouth, but not virus particles coming in.

“So if I’m not sick, it’s not effective,” Henry said during a TV town hall meeting on the pandemic in Vancouver March 19. “It’s not something that, when I’m out in public, is going to protect me in any way. And as a matter of fact, people often fiddle with it, and contaminate themselves, and it can lead to more risk.”

Henry has written a book called Soap and Water and Common Sense, after working on the SARS pandemic in 2003. She later was involved in ebola outbreaks in Africa that started in 2012.

RELATED: Precautions for those pregnant in a pandemic

RELATED: B.C. Parks suspends camping until end of April

Health care staff use N95 respirators with eye protection, face visors and gowns when treating people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. N95 respirators are a more tight-fitting mask than the disposable ones commonly seen on streets.

“Where it is incredibly important is in the health care system,” Henry said. “And we need to make sure we have masks and respirators for our health care providers to make sure that they stay safe. And if I am sick, then a mask can help. It can help keep my droplets in so that I’m not infecting others.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix says B.C. has sufficient supplies of protective gear and more on order for people working in health facilities as demand for medical care climbs.

Premier John Horgan warned that the province will “crack down pretty hard” on those trying to buy up and resell disinfectants, masks or other protective gear. B.C.’s emergency authority will be used as necessary to protect public health, he said on the broadcast.

“There’s no space for profiteering in a time of crisis,” Horgan said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

Volunteer Cowichan encouraging anyone in need to reach out

Programs available for seniors but also others in the community who need support

MacGregor addresses federal response to COVID-19

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP spoke to constituents via Facebook

Getting the runaround on reporting quarantine violation

Non-actions speak louder than words during COVID-19 pandemic

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

Long list of events disrupted by COVID-19 around the community

Challenging situation affecting fundraisers, entertainment, sports and more

B.C. health officer says homemade masks may prevent spread of COVID-19 to others

Practising physical distancing, frequent hand washing and resisting touching your face are proven methods

B.C.’s senior home staff measures show results in COVID-19 battle

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order restricts care aides to one facility

Independent investigation praises RCMP actions in Vancouver Island suicide attempt

Man hurt in incident that took place near Nanoose Bay in September of 2019

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

B.C. unveils $3.5M COVID-19 emergency fund for post-secondary students

Money will help students cover living expenses, food, travel, portable computers

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Most Read