Environmentalists have warned that a global increase in use of single-use masks, latex gloves and other protective gear employed against the novel coronavirus could exacerbate marine pollution.

OceansAsia, a grassroots environmental organization based in Hong Kong, reported earlier in the month that disposable masks were found floating underwater and on seabeds, caught among ghost nets and other debris.

"A single face mask could take hundreds of years to break down into microplastic, the kind of microplastic is now being found in fish destined for human consumption, sea salt and even sea spray," the organization said, recommending that people switch to reusable masks where possible.