Hau Dinh/ AP Photo
A company in Hanoi, Vietnam, has been producing face masks made out of toilet paper, authorities discovered on Wednesday.
The manufacturer, Viet Han Company Ltd, faces high penalties. Before the discovery, officials found and seized roughly 140,000 masks.
Sixteen cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Vietnam. Face-mask demand has surged and production is up after authorities said the country needs to produce 10 million masks per day.
As face-mask demand surges amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, officials in Hanoi, Vietnam, discovered a company producing face masks partially out of toilet paper.
Officials learned on Wednesday that Viet Han Company Ltd was using large toilet paper rolls at its factory in the city.
The material was used to replace an antibacterial layer usually found in masks, said Hoang Dai Nghia, chief of Team 1 at the Hanoi Market Surveillance Agency.
Hoang told the Vietnam Express that Viet Han Company sought to profit off the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 63,000 people in China and killed at least 1,380. Sixteen cases have been confirmed in Vietnam.
"This company is cheating consumers amid the novel coronavirus outbreak," he said, adding that the company's stock was confiscated and the agency is considering the highest penalties possible.
Viet Han Company is a printing and napkin company. It is not registered as a producer of medical supplies.
Prior to the discovery, authorities seized some 140,000 masks, many of which used toilet paper, and were searching for the manufacturers.
Authorities have advised that producers of poor-quality and imitation products will face heavy fines, the Saigon Times reported. Since early February, officials have found more than 4,200 violations related to face-mask production.
Face masks are actually most useful to individuals who already have an illness. They prevent sick people from spreading the infection to others, but do not necessarily protect the healthy, according to researchers. The World Health Organization says other measures — like washing one's hands, using tissues to cough or sneeze, and maintaining a three-foot distance from others — could do more to help people stay healthy.
And yet around the country, demand for the masks has skyrocketed. Vietnam's Ministry of Health recently advised that the country needs to produce 10 million masks per day.
Since then, "textiles business, including several with no prior experience, have begun producing antibacterial masks," wrote Vietnam Express journalist Anh Minh.
And employees on the production lines are working overtime to meet demand.
"Most of us are doing an extra half-shift of overtime every day," one worker at Dong Xuan Knitting Company told Vietnam Express. "Because we make more money, everyone is happy and trying to take advantage of the situation."
The director of the company, Tran Viet, said Dong Xuan is producing up to eight tons of antibacterial fabric daily, enough for roughly 300,000 masks.
"We are working every hour to improve productivity," he said. "After it stabilizes, we will see if we can serve orders in other epidemic-affected areas if needed."