Prompted by soaring prices and scarce supply, the billionaire art collector and entrepreneur Adrian Cheng has announced plans to distribute for free medical-grade surgical face masks in 35 vending machines in 18 locations throughout Hong Kong.
Managed by eight Hong Kong-based NGOs, the dispensers will initially provide 10 million face masks to vulnerable residents who can each claim a pack of five masks every week by pre-registering online for a “smart redemption card”. The card will eliminate the need for people to queue for their packs.
Announcing the “Mask to Go” initiative on Instagram yesterday, Cheng says his teams “have been working tirelessly to make sure we have the ability to produce high-quality medical face masks here in Hong Kong”. Starting in mid-April, four production lines will produce 200,000 masks a day “that will better equip Hong Kong to combat Covid-19 now, and in the future”, Cheng says. At its peak, the programme is expected to produce more than 7 million medical face masks per month.
Cheng adds: “As the number of Covid-19 cases continues to spike globally, Hong Kong is now experiencing a second wave of imported and locally transmitted cases. In addition to a series of initiatives announced earlier this year, our team wanted to do more to protect the local community, especially the elderly and those most vulnerable in society, against further community outbreaks. Medical face masks are an essential protective tool in our fight against Covid-19.”
The first phase of the programme is expected to benefit more than 40,000 low-income residents throughout Hong Kong, many of whom are forced to use the same mask repeatedly. “By providing a consistent supply of medical face masks and distributing them through these dispensers, we ensure a hygienic and safe way of getting the masks into the hands of those who need them most,” Cheng says.
The NGOs involved include the Lutheran Church, the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association, the Neighbourhood Advice-Action Council and the Salvation Army.
In addition, Cheng’s New World Development (NWD) property development company is investing HK$10m in the research and development of NanoDiamonds technology to produce advanced masks that feature a special coating that kills bacteria and viruses. The investment follows the establishment of NWD’s charitable initiative #LoveWithoutBorders, which has so far donated 2.5 million medical face masks to partners and local communities in South Korea, France, Italy and the UK, as well as more than 3 million in Greater China.