Global sales of masks and respirators are projected to reach between $8 billion and $10.7 billion as demand for personal protection equipment (PPE) to fight the Covid-19 pandemic grows, according to California-based research and consulting firm Life Science Intelligence (LSI). In a report released this week, the researcher says demand coupled with shortages has caused average sales prices for those items to increase by as much as four times.
As one example, the researchers say the global market for respirator masks was estimated to be 5 billion units per year prior to the outbreak and is now expected to exceed 100 billion units in 2020—assuming the virus will be contained and the incidence of new infections subsides by end of this year, they added.
"The price of masks has been soaring and are selling at more than 10 times standard prices in many cases," the researchers wrote. "China has been the main supplier of personal protection equipment, which further complicates the current market dynamics."
Here at home, manufacturers have stepped up production of PPE, including masks and gowns, to meet growing demand. Many U.S companies are converting their operations in response to local, state, and federal calls for more equipment. As one example, clothing manufacturer Brooks Brothers said this week it is in the process of converting its New York, North Carolina, and Massachusetts factories from manufacturing ties, shirts, and suits to now making masks and gowns. Brooks Brothers said it plans to use these facilities to produce up to 150,000 masks per day on an ongoing basis "to help increase access to protective gear for health care workers and others battling the spread of COVID-19 at the nation's hospitals and other facilities." The company will also be producing gowns, officials said.
To begin production, Brooks Brothers' factory personnel who will be making masks are set to return to their jobs this week following a two-week precautionary self-quarantine, the company also said.