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21.03.2020 Europe

Things to do under lockdown: Make your own face mask to ease shortage

By RFI
ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP
LISTEN MAR 21, 2020
ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

As health workers worldwide lament a shortage of protective masks that could help protect them from the coronavirus, there have been growing calls on social media for the public to donate stockpiled masks. Others are trying to ease demand by providing free online designs to make your own at home.

The French military has delivered five million masks to the health ministry for distribution, Health Minister Olivier Véran said Thursday. 

Some 30 million masks have already been shipped to medical staff throughout the country, but Véran said this would only be sufficient for three days.

According to a new French decree established on 13 March, only caregivers and medical facilities are authorised to purchase protective FFP2 and higher grade masks. That has not stopped some from trying to make a profit, however.

In Italy, where the daily coronavirus numbers of dead have surpassed the Wuhan, China outbreak epicentre, Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that many hospitals are having to wear the same mask for 12 hours a day.

In an interview with US broadcaster NBC News, the head of the largest physician association in the US spoke of the shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) that hospital staff on the front line of combatting the pandemic are facing.

“I'm hearing physicians just don't have access, that they are using one mask all day and then sometimes having to go home and clean that mask,” Dr Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association told NBC.

Get creative: Make your own 
A number of initiatives online are trying to help those who have the skills to create masks by offering free sewing patterns. Dutch designer Joost De Cock posted his free patterns for masks on the FreeSewing Open Source Project after his wife, a surgeon, said that there were PPE shortages back in February.

Instructables, another website, has a number of free patterns by artist Jen Murphy and medical professional Sabra Stein, including for child-sized masks.

Murphy and Stein suggest people make three masks each—one to wear, one to wash, and one spare.

Neither website claims their masks will prevent coronavirus.

Are masks necessary for everyone?
According to the World Health Organization, only healthy people who are taking care of those suspected of having Covid-19 should be wearing protective masks. It also suggests that people wear masks if they are coughing or sneezing.

The mask is effective if used in conjunction with handwashing.

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