Orson Welles, Dr. Hong and the Corona Crisis

No matter which colleague you talk to, in which country you live, or in which medical environment you work in—we currently all have the same problem:

Orson Welles as Harry Lime in the movie, “The Third Man”

We have a shortage of masks, specifically FFP II+III/N95. Then again, walking through the supermarket I see people wearing such masks and even protective visor helmets.

How can it be that health care professionals as those exposed most are left unprotected while others are not?

The footsteps of Harry Lime

In a way I am reminded of the 1949 movie “The Third Man” by Orson Wells set in post-WWII Vienna—at a time when surreptitious trade was a major strategy to survive. All sorts of goods (in “The Third Man” it was penicillin) were traded trough dubious channels. I myself was recently approached by several people who promised me:

“I can get you any protective equipment you want”.

I was even offered 10.000 FFP III masks and PPE overalls—needless to say, for an enormous price.

Masks—The new currency?

Clearly, some are trying to make money in the crisis. As always, the root of evil is greed. Countries outsourced the production of masks and PPE to low-wage countries to increase their profit margin. These countries now are not able to produce masks in the quantities needed.

Getting Help from China

But not all act this way. Here is a counter-example: In February, I received a package from Dr. Hong, a Chinese post-doc who had worked at our department. Rarely have I seen such a hard-working, disciplined and wonderful colleague, and—together with Matthias Schneider from our department—we became close friends.

I was honestly moved when I opened the package: Included was an assortment of Chinese teas and several FFP III masks.

Having gone through the crisis in China, she anticipated what would happen in Vienna and did not forget us.

Hong with Matthias Schneider, Thomas Binder, and Georg Spinka (left to right)

Best, Thomas

Edited 2020-04-04 02:40 CEST

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