Novel coronavirus: On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first public appearance since the outbreak that has since claimed more than 1,000 lives. President Jinping was seen wearing a blue surgical mask as he headed to meet the doctors and observe the treatment of patients at the Beijing Ditan hospital.
However, these surgical masks are not very potent when it comes to protection against a virus such as the coronavirus. Lijian Zhao, Deputy Director General of Information Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China said that even President Xi Jinping uses an ordinary medical mask, signalling people to not panic and use masks correctly.
"President Xi Jinping only wears an ordinary medical mask, which sends a signal that we should use masks correctly & not panic. This is in line with the rule that officials in Beijing are not allowed to use N95 masks as they are reserved for medical workers fighting at the front," said Zhao.
President Xi Jinping only wears an ordinary medical mask, which sends a signal that we should use masks correctly & not panic. This is in line with the rule that officials in Beijing are not allowed to use N95 masks as they are reserved for medical workers fighting at the front. pic.twitter.com/HWEniZnYNW- Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) February 11, 2020
How are surgical masks different from N95 masks?
In simplistic terms, surgical masks do not provide respiratory protection but are simple barrier protectors. A surgical mask can provide protection against droplets or large respiratory particles. They are usually lose-fit and cannot prevent leakage around the side of the masks.
A N95 mask is a respiratory mask, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is also an exhalation valve that eases breathing and keeps the face cool.
While it is still being worked out how exactly the virus spreads, people have been suggested to undertake respiratory hygiene and hand-washing. As panicking people clamour to lay hands on the best of the masks available such as the N95 variety, there will soon be scarcity of masks. It can cause great harm to the health care workers and people who are actually in grave need of the masks.
According to CNN, basic surgical masks have been recommended for areas where the number of potential coronavirus carriers is low. On the other hand, health care providers in Wuhan have been spotted in full hazmat-style suits.
For instance, Beijing, where President Jinping made his hospital visit is situated around 1,000 km away from Wuhan - the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. There have been a few hundred cases in the Chinese capital and three deaths. On the other hand, most of the deaths have been reported in Wuhan.
China has been hard at work to contain the widespread panic regarding coronavirus. The country is also working hard to control it from spreading and has taken some extreme measures including lockdown of Wuhan. "Under Xi's leadership, China has carried out national mobilisation, across-the-board deployment and swift responses, adopted the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures and launched a people's war against the epidemic," stated a report in state media, Xinhua.