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Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Shot by Jiang Xiaowei. Edited by Ma Xuefeng. Subtitles by Wang Xinzhou and Andy Boreham.

Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Workers manufacture facial masks at Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co in Songjiang District on Friday. 

Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A worker checks the materials for facial masks at Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co in Songjiang District on Friday.

Workers at a facial mask plant in suburban Shanghai’s Songjiang District have been standing along the manufacturing line for 11 days to catch up with a shortage of masks caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

“Our factory staff were already on Spring Festival holiday leave, and the unexpected news of the pneumonia outbreak broke that status,” said Wu Shengrong, board chairman of Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co, on Friday.

“When I watched television and learnt the news, I decided to restart the manufacturing line immediately,” he said.

Workers of the factory who were still in Shanghai were called back, and they worked day and night to fill the supply gap. 

Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A worker manufactures facial masks at Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co in Songjiang District on Friday. 

But the majority of workers had returned to their hometowns for Spring Festival, Wu said. The factory has 163 workers, and only 10 percent were in Shanghai at that time.

“What could we do? Drivers, cleaners and management staff all stand along the manufacturing line around the clock to produce as many masks as we can,” he said. “We have no other choice.”

Now, the factory’s workers number over 30 as more have returned. Its daily manufacturing capacity has returned to 70,000 to 80,000 masks, from 30,000 to 40,000 just 11 days ago. Maximum daily capacity is 200,000 masks when all workers are back, said Wu.

During the holiday, Wu worked through the night twice, and only slept three hours on another two nights.

Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A worker makes facial masks at Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co in Songjiang District on Friday. 

Workers at the factory also work day and night through their holidays, but no one is complaining.

“I don’t take a rest because every second is precious,” said Wang Xiaoming, a worker living in Qingpu District. “It’s a duty to contribute to the prevention of the spread of the virus and my family members fully understand me.”

Another worker, auntie Wang, 50, said she wanted to produce as many masks as possible.

“We should conquer difficulties and make all-out effort in manufacturing,” the Songjiang District native said. “Nobody complains of extra work.”

“I rushed to the manufacturing line upon my arrival in Shanghai,” said another worker surnamed Li, who returned to his hometown in Shangrao, eastern China’s Jiangxi Province, before the holiday. He came back on the fourth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday. “I don’t want to waste time.”

Wu said the factory plans to add another three manufacturing lines and will recruit 20 to 30 more workers.

Li Jia, head of the biomedicine industry department with the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information, said mask production is catching up.

“The daily supply in Shanghai grew to 1.5 million on Thursday, up from 400,000 to 500,000 at the beginning of the holiday,” said Li.

The city has 17 facial mask manufacturing plants.

Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Workers package masks at Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co in Songjiang District on Friday. 

Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A worker produces materials for facial masks at Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co in Songjiang District on Friday. 

Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A worker monitors the machines at Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co in Songjiang District on Friday. 

Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Two workers manufacture facial masks at Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co in Songjiang District on Friday. 

Shanghai mask factory scrambles to meet demand

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Facial masks at Shanghai Dasheng Sanitation Products Co in Songjiang District 

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