When Buying A Fake Can Be Fatal

by Georgia Fairweather

The Covid 19 pandemic has been an unprecedented worldwide phenomenon. In response to this worldwide disaster, innovation has sparked. People are finding new ways to provide essential items, and reduce the spread of the virus worldwide. Following my recent interview with Albert Chen from Mask Lab.hk on Fintech.tv I realised how important it is to make sure you are buying high quality products that meet international guidelines, and how important testing and provenance is for mask quality control really is.

In a world of Amazon, Ebay and other online marketplaces it has become easier for suppliers legitimate or otherwise to take substandard, fake or counterfeit goods to innocent or willing consumers. I like some of you, have been tempted by a very good fake once or twice but I never actually bought one as they rarely last as long as you want but ultimately the worst that can happen is you are out of pocket. However, for an online consumer buying a fake PPE mask and the chances I have discovered are higher than you may think, the consequences to your health could be fatal.

As of May 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic has claimed over 350,000 lives worldwide, and another 200,000 are predicted in the US alone by September 2020.  It is yet unknown the number of infections caused by the public wearing masks that don’t meet current guidelines and could have been prevented from contracting the illness due to ineffective PPE masks.

In this unprecedented time we are seeing a world wide shortage of masks globally The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 89 million medical masks will be required every month to meet the demand of Covid-19, and production needed to increase by 40%. PPE masks that meet international standards and regulations have been shown to reduce particle spread by 95%. With the demand in public and private health sectors for these masks increasing it has been an easy time for less ethical suppliers to push substandard masks into the market., which could cost thousands of lives. Purchasing and wearing low quality masks can be only as effective as 5% in stopping particle spread which highlights the importance for consumers to know where your mask comes from and the quality assurance that comes with it.

Currently suppliers validate their authenticity and effectiveness through third party test reports which in many commentators’ opinion are not enough to prove the quality or safety of the products.

However my interview Albert showed me how  he is campaigning for unilateral agreement that these need to be tested, and documented in house by the supplier so there is more transparency and accountability to consumers and public health authorities.

Albert’s additional measures to try and  reassure the market  and consumers there is a way forward by applying blockchain solutions that help every mask his factory produces have a provenance tag that lets consumers know that any given time where the mask comes from, that it meets international standards for PPE, the original supplier it came from and its country of origin.

From my research I estimate that substandard and fake PPE providers out there are selling products to the public who are seeking safety, knowing their product does nothing to protect them. In my opinion, during a time when we have to come together to fight this global pandemic, next to some politicians this group of business owners are some of the worst kind of people out there, who are praying on people’s fear.. If you are worried that an item of PPE you are going to purchase may not be genuine then my advice is to check out the provenance of the mask.

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