Ann Chiang, health experts spar over 'mask steaming' - RTHK
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Ann Chiang, health experts spar over 'mask steaming'

2020-01-30 HKT 16:32
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  • 'Surgical masks can be washed, steamed and reused?! Don’t believe in these rumours!', says the Centre for Health Protection.
    'Surgical masks can be washed, steamed and reused?! Don’t believe in these rumours!', says the Centre for Health Protection.
  • Centre for Health Protection controller Wong Ka-hing told Ann Chiang that masks should not be steamed and reused. But Chiang asked Wong to check this again.
    Centre for Health Protection controller Wong Ka-hing told Ann Chiang that masks should not be steamed and reused. But Chiang asked Wong to check this again.
A defiant Ann Chiang continued to insist on Thursday that Hong Kong people can steam used face masks and wear them again, even as the Centre for Health Protection took to social media to warn people not to believe messages "from unreliable sources".

"Surgical masks can be washed, steamed and reused?! Don’t believe in these rumours!" the centre's post on Facebook said, accompanied by a graphic showing a mask in a pan of boiling water and a caption in Chinese that read "Absolutely not!".

"Used surgical masks are contaminated with pathogens and must be dumped in a covered bin. The efficacy of face masks would be affected when they’re wet. Don’t easily believe in online messages from unreliable sources,” it said.

Chiang, who is the DAB's spokeswoman on health issues and also chairs Legco's health services panel, had already had a run-in with the centre's controller, Wong Ka-hing, earlier in the day.

When Wong told her at a meeting that masks can only be worn once and sterilising them for reuse does not work, she asked him to check that once again.

Pro-democracy lawmakers had ridiculed Chiang for sharing a video on her Facebook page showing people how to steam face masks.

But in a new post on Thursday, she doubled down on her claim that it is a legitimate way for people to get round the scarcity of masks in the city.

"I want to point out that a face mask is made up of three layers. The middle layer, made of polypropylene fibre, is used to filter viruses. The melting point of polypropylene fibre is 167 degrees. It can withstand heat and be steam-sterilised," she said.

"An expert from the National Health Commission, Li Lanjuan, said the new coronavirus can be killed at 56 degrees, while microbiologist Professor Yuen Kwok-yung also said the virus easily dies at 30 degrees. Therefore, steam-sterilising face masks is not unfeasible."

The lawmaker also addressed a warning from Hong Kong University infectious disease expert Dr Ho Pak-leung that some medical workers were infected with Sars in 2003 after they repeatedly used face masks.

Chiang said that was because they hadn't steamed them.

Democrat Helena Wong said Chiang should resign as chairwoman of Legco's health services panel for "spreading fake news".