Severe shortage of N95 masks leave many Bangkokians at risk

Many people wear masks as they attend aerobic workouts at Lumpini Park in central Bangkok yesterday. The PM2.5 level has been dangerously high, covering the capital with thick smog.
PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

After spending several days choking on high levels of fine particle dust, many Bangkokians opted for masks to protect themselves, though some were unable to find the N95-grade facemasks required and are calling for the authorities to cover the shortage.

Meanwhile, an online poll conducted by The Standard online magazine among 2,200 residents on Monday and yesterday revealed that 50.3 per cent wore masks to protect themselves, while the remainder complained they could not find one. They said they had visited many pharmacies and convenience stores, but were told they would only get one in two weeks if they make a reservation or post order for the product now.

Another poll conducted by the magazine on Twitter found that 53 per cent of the 715 respondents wore a facemask. Most people responded to the question - "How do you live with PM2.5 [dust particles 2.5 micrometers or smaller in size]?" - by criticising the government for being too slow in dealing with the issue and not having any remedial measures in place. Many also complained of developing respiratory problems due to the dust.

Yesterday morning, several people on Lat Phrao Road were seen wearing masks to protect themselves from allergies or health problems. They too complained of the shortage of N95-grade masks and called on the government to ease the shortage.

Photo: The Nation/Asia News Network

Similarly masked people were spotted on Sathorn and Silom roads, while pharmacies in the Victory Monument area confirmed a severe shortage in the N95-grade masks.

Meanwhile, joggers in Chatuchak's Wachirabenchathat Park were also seen wearing masks, in line with official advice that people should protect themselves while outdoors because PM2.5 levels in many areas were beyond the safe limit of 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air. 
A man identified only as Krit said he has been wearing an N95 mask during his daily run and is closely following air-quality updates and warnings.

Some runners said they have halved their jogging period from the usual two hours, as running any more than an hour will lead to breathing difficulties. They said they will exercise at home if the situation does not improve, while many complained of respiratory irritation and breathing difficulties this week.