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

Summerland business leaders plan for economic recovery

Change in tone noted as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Penticton RCMP seek suspect in ‘bold’ Martin Street robbery

Officers following numerous leads and hope to have suspect in custody soon

COVID-19 expected to affect Summerland finances

Council will discuss effects of pandemic during April 14 meeting

BREAKING: Inmate at Okanagan Correctional Centre tests positive for COVID-19

This is B.C.’s first community outbreak at a corrections facility

From inside the ER: B.C. doctor tells it like it is from the frontlines of COVID-19

‘Stay home. It’s working,’ says ER doctor in a Q&A discussion, ‘And please don’t worry.’

COVID19 pushes Salmon Arm boxing coach into students’ living rooms

Needs of students with Parkinson’s prompts Bulldogs’ Peggy Maerz into Zoom Room

B.C. lawyer describes inmate’s positive COVID-19 test as ‘a huge problem’

Virus in the confined space of Okanagan Correctional Centre may be difficult to contain

B.C. senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Trudeau commits $100M to help food banks amid COVID-19 crisis

Funds will help ‘urgent food needs’ for Canadians awaiting federal emergency benefits to kick in

Domestic violence on the rise in Okanagan amid COVID-19

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP see increase in domestic dispute call volumes

Couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas: Cowichan by-law

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

Most Read