Bus company KMB is producing its own surgical masks in a Tuen Mun cleanroom factory that can turn out millions of surgical masks a year and provide at least one or two masks daily for drivers and other employees of the firm and its partner LWB. The first batch will cater to the needs of bus captains, terminus supervisors, outdoor staff and office staff, the company says.
Public transport workers have been on the front lines of Covid-19 – in London, 21 transport workers have died after testing positive for coronavirus, including 15 bus workers. In New York, 121 transit workers have died of the virus. In Australia, bus drivers have threatened to strike if they’re not kitted out with protective gear, with the secretary of the New South Wales Rail, Tram and Bus Union, David Babineau, quoted in The Guardian as saying “Give us bloody masks. We’ve been asking for it forever, masks, masks, masks.”
KMB’s production line will not only support its staff, the company says, but will also build a surplus that can support the elderly and those in need around Hong Kong.
The new production capability will reduce pressure on mask supplies, which is vital in Hong Kong and around the world. Professor Sian Griffiths, Emeritus Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and co-chair of the Hong Kong government’s SARS inquiry, said increased use of masks “risks diversion away from those who are in clinical need – patients, health care workers and care home staff.”
“In the US, to avoid shortage of masks in situations where they are clinically needed, the CDC has recommended cloth face coverings as part of the drive to reduce transmission of the virus and even provided patterns so they can be home made,” she says.
KMB’s mask production line comprises a Mask Making Machine, an Ear-Loop Sealing Machine and an Anti-bacterial Packaging Machine, fully automating the whole process of mask making – cutting, hemming and ear-loop sealing.
The Melt-blown Polypropylene (MBPP) used in the filter layer of the mask has been certificated by a third party organisation and with a Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) and Particle Filtration Efficiency (PFE) rate of at least 95%, the masks can block fluids and bacteria effectively, the company says.
KMB’s parent Transport International Holdings built a ISO Class 8 positive-pressure cleanroom in Tuen Mun to accommodate the new factory, with certification from the US National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB).