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Coronavirus

China to churn out 100bn masks this year in pandemic's wake

Output jumps 20-fold as government pushes diplomacy and reopening economy

A mask factory operated by Guangzhou Automobile Group: Companies outside the medical sector have joined the effort to meet global demand. (Photo by Takashi Kawakami)

GUANGZHOU, China -- Chinese production of face masks is on track to surge to more than 20 times the 2019 total this year amid a scramble to keep up with demand fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.

The country is expected to churn out 102.5 billion masks in 2020, 20.5 times last year's output, according to Guangzhou-based iiMedia Research.

Companies outside the sector have joined the effort, including BYD, the country's top electric-car maker, which produces more than 50 million masks per day.

The surge has been driven in large part by the Chinese government, which has pushed companies to supply masks to factory workers as a condition of reopening factories. Beijing has also been donating more masks to other countries in what some observers see as a bid to defuse criticism that it allowed the virus to spread overseas.

Mask production is expected to drop 30% in 2021, iiMedia says.

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