Photo: Sino Weibo
Within 12 hours, 300,000 masks were produced by 20 volunteers in Shanghai, who had no experience working in plants before the novel coronavirus outbreak.
As an effective way to protect oneself from the virus, based on professional advice, masks have been urgently brought to the fore as a daily necessity and a fast-moving consumer good in China, resulting in a huge gap between market demand and supply.
Many medical material manufacturers have resumed production despite the shutdown period of the Spring Festival holiday. However, with inter-city movements restricted to avoid further human-to-human transmission, most home-returned migrant workers are unable to get back, and the shortage of manpower has become a major issue.
Medicom, a mask manufacturer in southwest Shanghai, is also understaffed. After learning about the situation, Zhou Rong, head of the Symphony Charity and Social Development Centre, a charity organization in Shanghai, offered to help.
"At first, I was worried that I would receive little response since it was the Spring Festival holiday, and the 12-hour night shift from 7:00pm to 7:00am is tiring," said Zhou.
But soon, over 300 people volunteered to take the 20 positions responsible for quality inspection, packing and sealing of the masks produced at a speed of 50 per minute per machine.
"I can produce 1,600 masks every 35 minutes, so that is around 30,000 in 12 hours," said Sun Jian. With the loud roaring of machines, few people noticed that he was actually hearing-impaired.
"I just want to do my part and hope this epidemic will end soon," said Sun.
Zhang Chengyao, a volunteer and also staff of the charity organization, found it difficult to adapt in the beginning.
"The workshop was stuffy with loud noise. I was all thumbs when I started, even despite our training," said Zhang.
But they soon became proficient. Twelve hours later, 20 volunteers delivered 300,000 masks to the factory. At present, the daily output of masks in Medicom has exceeded 1 million.
With more people mobilized by local authorities, the support from volunteers have been extended from just the night shift to two shifts, guaranteeing 24-hour round-the-clock production.
"Because we need to wear hazmat suits while working, it is not convenient to use the toilet so I'd rather not go. I can sort and pack more than 10,000 masks a day. It's all worth it,” said Lu Hongyan, a volunteer and also a member of the Shanghai Urban Management and Law Enforcement Bureau.
According to the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, a total of 17 mask manufacturers in Shanghai are gradually resuming their production, and the daily production capacity can reach 4 million after they reach a full production scale.
China is the world's leading mask manufacturer and exporter, with a maximum production capacity of more than 20 million pieces per day. The total mask output in China has topped 10 million pieces daily as domestic mask producers resumed 60 percent of production capacity and will keep resuming in the next days, according to Cao Xuejun, a senior official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Feb. 2.