(Reuters) – U.S. industrial giant 3M Co <MMMM.N> said on Friday it has doubled the production of N95 respirator masks over the last two months as a result of a surge in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The company also decided to invest more to expand the global capacity by 30% in next 12 months. With 400 million face masks produced a year in the United States, 3M is one of the biggest producers in the United States.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had earlier this month said that over the next 18 months it aims to buy 500 million masks for the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s supply of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
These masks are designed to filter 95% of airborne particles and is a more robust respiratory protective gear.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was invoking a wartime act to speed up production of masks, ventilators and other related equipment.
The announcement comes a day after General Electric’s <GE.N> healthcare unit said it will hire more people and increase the number of shifts as it races to produce ventilators round-the-clock to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 252,700 people have been infected by the coronavirus globally and 10,451 have died, with deaths in Italy surpassing the toll in China, according to a Reuters tally.
Meanwhile, hospitals in the United States are preparing for a surge in patients as the outbreak worsens, and a recent government analysis showed the majority of hospitalizations were among people aged between 65 and 84 years.
(Reporting by Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)