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Push to wear N95 masks leaves GPs in short supply

A rush for the public to secure N95 face masks has left some doctors in the lurch as demand outstrips supply.

The chaos comes as people attempt to dodge the virus in Victoria and New South Wales as daily case tallies hit tens of thousands a day — this time with no restrictions.

N95s are made out of synthetic plastic fibre polypropylene and offer more protection than commonly worn cloth masks due to how they contour to the face.

Despite the state government advising all medical professionals to opt for an N95, general practitioners say they have been left without steady supply, even as infections surge.

Camera IconCloth masks have typically been the choice for Australians during the pandemic. NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Victorian chair Anita Munoz said the sector has been ignored by the government, despite setting the N95 guidelines.

“At RACGP Victoria, we received multiple reports, all across the state in different regions, that general practice couldn’t get any N95 masks,” she told The Age.

However, despite the lack of supply for those on the frontline the surge of the masks’ everyday use has not been linked to any specific Australian public health advice.

College students in classroom during COVID-19
Camera IconN95 mask can offer very high levels of protection if worn correctly. Credit: istock

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is considering changing guidelines to include only N95s instead of standard cloth masks.

N95 masks filter out or capture about 95 per cent of airborne particles and are made from multi-layered interwoven material.

Surgical masks can also do the job, if they fit well, but gaps at the side dramatically reduce their effectiveness.

A packet of 50 standard surgical masks can be bought online for just $20 while N95s can cost $69 for a packet of 20.

Painkillers such as Panadol and Nurofen have also been cleared off Australian shelves.

Panicked shoppers took to social media this week claiming paracetamol and ibuprofen had all but been cleared out, sharing photos of near empty shelves across multiple supermarkets and pharmacies.

Camera Icondeputy chief medical officer, Professor Michael Kidd urged the stock up of painkillers. NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Deputy chief health officer Professor Michael Kidd had urged Australians to stock up on over-the-counter painkillers, as cases skyrocketed into the tens of thousands each day.

Professor Kidd said having the medication on hand would help to manage fevers and mild aches or pains.

“The first thing to do is to be prepared,” he said.

“My advice is that you make sure you have some paracetamol or ibuprofen at home in case you’re diagnosed with Covid-19.

“Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to manage fever and aches and pains.

“It’s important to be prepared because you won’t be able to go to your supermarket or pharmacy if you are diagnosed with Covid-19.”

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