Is this a 'fake' Surgical Mask ? Have I been Scammed? - - Singapore Wacky Digital Underground Outpost

Is this a 'fake' Surgical Mask ? Have I been Scammed?

Have you bought this 'brand' of  Face Mask?

It has been a week since the Wuhan Virus outbreak reached the shores of Singapore. It was a long week searching high and low for the surgical masks. Everywhere I go, I would encounter Sold Out signs. I am determined not to feed the scalpers on Carousell and would look for sources where I can find a physical product or order online. Desperation seeped in when our orders from Lazada and Qoo10 were cancelled out of the blue.

Sold Out Mask!
It was only yesterday that we saw a post on Facebook about a sale of Mask at Lucky Plaza. Wanting to secure masks for the family, I took a trip down to do some mask hunting. Before anyone start chants of hoarding, the main reason to get the masks were for the wife who would be making the overseas trips. The other reason is to make sure the boys are well protected if the need arises.

The 4 free masks from the government would not suffice but we do appreciate the gesture. We are probably the only country where the government provide surgical masks for free. Yet from the queues, you have a sense that it is underappreciated. By the way, the free masks are quality surgical mask from Assure, much better than the brandless masks you buy outside.

Pop Up Store

Back to the story.

When I reached the destination, it was a popup store selling masks in bulk. Nevermind that some retailers are limiting the number of surgical masks you could purchase. This store allowed you to buy in cartons of 40 boxes of 50 surgical mask (that's 2000 masks- enough to last more than a year for a family of 4)  each for a 'pocket-friendly' price of $600. When I got there, it was a frenzy with many lugging 1 or 2 cartons for their loved ones... or maybe they are purchasing it to resell. I could not tell.

This was probably the first red flag- Mass clearance and Fire Sale of a product that is in high demand. You would wonder why the retailers are so 'generous' at this stage.

Wuhan Face Mask

In the man-made chaos, I caught a familiar sight. I had seen these boxes before. It appeared to be from Wuhan Oriental Honest International Pte Co. In case you doubt their products, they do have a website and it seemed that their masks were certified. It looked legit given this was set up way before this Wuhan Virus emerge.

Still, there were some nagging doubts within so I decided to get just one box. A box of 50 should suffice a family of 4 for up to 1 month or more if used wisely. Alas, it was not the masks that I should get. It was not until I got home that I realised that these face masks were probably not what it seemed to be.

Then the red flags became apparent. If you take a closer look, there is an additional 'surgical' added to the box compared to the original. Furthermore, instead of the Supplier details, it only had a 'Made in China' printed on it. (Disclaimer - It might not even be Made in China for all we know)

The former is added to give a sense of comfort to the purchaser while the latter added doubts that it is actually the same supplier as the widely circulated meme. In fact, I would be more comforted if it had  Wuhan Orient Honest International printed on it. Despite the source, at least, that company has a history of dealing with medical products.

The Real Wuhan Oriental Honest International Pte Co

Adding to the lack of details, there were no expiry dates printed on the box and no company logo. It was just a box that screamed ' I am dodgy!

Made in China Surgical Mask

I decided to go one more step to see if the surgical mask is the real deal. Surgical masks are often marketed as 3 ply products. 3 ply implies that there are 3 layers. The Non-Woven layer, Filter Material and the skin contact layer. The filter material is the core layer that determines if the mask is suitable to combat the virus.

After dissecting the mask, I compared it to another Mask that I managed to procure and the result was apparent. The No Brand Mask filter material was as good as no filter. It was porous and made of cheap tissue-like material. To prove a point, I could tear the Mask like how I can tear a tissue paper.

Here are some side by side comparisons

The middle layer is porous on the Brandless mask vs another brand of surgical mask.

Here is a closer look. Due to the large gaps, the brandless mask would not prevent virus at all.

You can see through the thin layer under light vs a proper surgical mask.

I am no medical expert, but it seemed like I managed to purchase a 3 ply tissue paper with loops rather than a surgical facemask. At best this is a VERY inferior surgical mask. I reckoned this mask should be classified as a Dust mask and not Surgical Mask as advertised. Given the packaging, I would not be surprised if it was produced in a backyard rather than a sterilised environment.

I highly doubt this would be effective in all circumstances given that it was not rated for BFE and PFE. Still, I would probably use it as beggars could not be choosers. Thankfully, I only bought a box.

You can read more about the type of mask suitable for virus here.

Are these real surgical Masks?

Similar boxes are on 'sale' on platforms such as Qoo10 or Carousell for prices range from $15 to $40 per box.  Some even claim that the masks are from Korea!

There is also the blue version that looks very similar to the green one in packaging. You might want a second opinion if you are keen to purchase it.

Ask yourself the following questions
  • Who made this?
  • Does it look like a box coming from a sterile environment or one that is made in a backyard with a stapling machine?
  • Is it BFE or PFE certified?
Given the increase in demand, it would not be surprising to see unscrupulous suppliers trying to make unjust profits. Making money on a health scare is one thing, selling products that do not work is another. These masks are not effective against virus and only provide a false sense of security to the wearer.

In any case, wearing a proper mask does not guarantee that you would not get the virus, especially if you do not wear it well. Learn how to wear a mask from Healthub website
Source: Hwalthhub

Have I been scammed?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Related Readings


Wuhan Virus Singapore Timeline 


  1. Thank you for raising. I've been googling for days and it seemed like all those being sold now are the same type, and no where does any of them or look like they might be droplet repellent.

    1. I think it’s very hard to get BFE and PFE certified mask nowadays . But to get tissue masks masquerading as surgical mask is a big no no. Smaller retailers are selling vietnam or Middle East masks. Not certified but I heard the quality is better than the green box mask

  2. They are indeed fake masks. I also was 'scammed' online. It's so frustrating trying to get masks to protect the family when it's sold out everywhere in stores. When I finally found a M'sian seller (thinking it should be better than buying from a China seller), the result is still the same. It's a lesson learn.

    1. Tough to find certified masks nowadays . Some shops are selling Vietnamese or Middle East or indon mask . Have you tried them ?

  3. Hi, have you try to compare with the free masks given by govt?

    1. The masks from the Govt are branded Assure (its on the mask)That one is certified and rate BFE>99% (I collected it today) . I would advise to get them as the quality is much better than the Indonesia / China Mask. Beside there is hardly any queues, compared to the queues for dubious masks.

      Would not attempt to dissect it as I only have 4 good masks with me :(

  4. Hi, just for your info the mask is Not to protect the wearer from coronavirus, it's main intent is to prevent spread of the virus, that is why Gov are saying only those are unwell need to use surgical mask. The transmission is known by water droplet from infected person or contact with contaminated surface. Thus the water permeability is key, you did your water test but if you have read MOH guidelines - when the surgical mask is soiled / wet, it's indication to change your mask. Yes Indonesia surgical mask that you compare against seen to be of better quality, but I would say both may serve the intent of surgical mask - which is to contain the droplets from affected person.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. honestly, i used to do my experiments in biohazard lab in uni, i have used the green and the blue box ones, the genuine one's quality is good, they never looked anything like those "made in china" ones claimed by the author, even until the CNY week my current company still have mask stock of that green and blue box brand, they are all normal. I have to say i took this masks for granted for so many years i didnt bother to check their brand. I even handled the mask's stock in and out at one point as an intern in an agriculture analytical lab.

    Again if you think a bit more rationally, at this time, China do not have the time to make counterfeit like this. Even if they have made it, they cannot ship them out. This is most likely another country's troll, taking advantage on the xenophobia going around against China. My parents have been frantically searching for company that make facemasks (they say the share sure go up) and i told them, based on my experience of using 3 ply surgical mask, in school, in uni, in intern place and in my current company, they are OEMs from the same company, a company which the logo and the brand name is not advertised widely. The packaging looked the same, just like the green and blue box shown in the picture author gave, perhaps a lil more sturdy.

    1. Thanks for your comments, the mask could have been made anywhere. This is a brandless mask,so I agreed source is dubious. For the record, it may not even be made in China as you mentioned.


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