Entry of many players in the mask industry resulted in a decrease in demand for masks.
The demand for masks in Bangalore recently went down by 70 to 80 percent compared to what it was in the first three months of the lockdown. “During the first three months of the pandemic the monthly demand for masks was nearly equal to the cumulative of 10 to 12 years of demand in the past about 15,000 to 20,000 masks. However, it has reduced by 75 to 80 percent after the lockdown, despite the fear of a second wave of corona” said Mr. Rendil, owner of mask factory Morera Venture LLP, Bangalore.
In December 2020, the supply of N95 masks exceeded demand. According to the president of All India Mask Manufacturers Association, more than 100 manufacturers either shut down their business or are planning to do so. Most owners blamed unethical practices and poor demand-supply management. Also, about 20 crore N95 masks and 60 crores 3 ply masks were produced, but only 10 to 30 percent, respectively, were actually utilized from the total production.
Mr. Rendil explained, “One of the reasons for shutting down is less demand. Another reason is the entry of many manufacturers into the industry. Also, initially people were worried about contracting Covid-19 and were using N95 masks. However, now they have shifted to homemade masks.”
Miss Sushila, a homemade mask maker, from Bangalore started supplying masks during March to May.She said, “I used to stitch 50 masks per day for a company and for that they were paying me Rs. 1.5 per mask, but when I demanded more money, they refused to give, due to which I suffered losses. Later, I stopped stitching masks for them. Later on the company shut down their business, due to less demand in the market.”
Demand reduction in masks has also impacted employment in the mask industry. A dealer for the masks made by Mahesh Healthcare Services, M R Vinay said “Before Corona we had four to five workers and after September, we hired seven more workers. But now as demand has gone down, we have kept only three workers who stitch masks. The demand during the peak of corona was 5,000 to 6,000 masks per month, which has come down to 1,000 masks per month. Due to which we have moved the remaining seven people into other sections and other industries.” He added how they started stitching homemade masks due to more demand for matching masks.
Mr.Skanda Shetty from Kombalgudu said, “I prefer using cloth mask over layer mask as they are more comfortable. I have spectacles so if I use a layer mask it generates fog on my spectacles and I can’t see anything. Cloth masks are more adjustable on the face and give me more comfort.”
The Bangalore Mask Project states that cloth masks are just a means to reduce the risk of infection; they won’t protect one from it. It says that these masks are not intended to replace N95 or surgical masks and do not have proper medical respiratory protection or medical certification. Owner of Sipra Surgi-Med Pvt. Ltd., Mr Srinidhi said, “Safety of homemade mask usage is depending on the quality of water they use to wash. Surgical masks and disposable masks go through a lot of quality tests. I don’t believe the strategy of using the homemade mask. Absorbance level of a cloth mask is higher than a layered mask, so it can absorb corona particles. Always a disposable mask is safer than a cloth mask.”
Dr. Smita from Covid19 ward of Victoria Hospital, Bangalore highlighted the importance of N95 over handmade masks. She said, “N95 masks are needed in hospitals or centres where COVID19 patients are treated or evaluated as suspects. Layer of the N95 masks filters the viruses and bacteria.”