Govt lifts export ban on surgical masks, but excludes N95 equipment

N95 masks are FDA-approved particulate filtering respirators that can filter 95% of airborne particles

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The central government has lifted the export ban on surgical masks and gloves over a week after it banned the export of all personal protective equipment amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China. However, this excludes the N95 masks, which are effective in preventing the virus from spreading.

“Items such as surgical masks/disposable masks and all gloves except NBR gloves are allowed freely for export,” the directorate general of foreign trade (DGFT) said in a notification. The move assumed significance as there could be a spurt in demand for such products due to the disease that has claimed more than 800 lives in China.

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However, the notification said the export of all other personal protection equipment, including N-95 and other equipment accompanying masks and gloves, shall remain prohibited for exports. N95 masks are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved particulate filtering respirators that can filter 95 per cent of airborne particles.

The Federal had last month reported that dealers in China had approached Indian suppliers for mass production of the masks, but the manufactures feared India would itself run short of the masks if the outbreak spreads in China. It also reported a rise in its retail prices due to high demand and shortage in supply.

(With inputs from agencies)