The Goverment is providing three million free face masks to community groups and supermarkets are upping supplies to enable more people to buy them.
Although not compulsory, under alert level 3 guidelines, Aucklanders are encouraged to wear face masks whenever they're out and about, keeping a two-metre distance. Under alert level 2, the rest of the country is encouraged to wear one if social distancing isn't possible.
The Ministry of Health suggests reusable fabric masks or single-use disposable masks. Temporary face coverings, such as a scarf or bandana, can also be used.
Those who have limited options for buying or making their own mask could request one through their local community group. Ministry of Health senior media adviser Emily Barrett confirmed on Monday that of the five million face masks earmarked for delivery throughout New Zealand, three million were provided free.
"Three million are being distributed to community organisations including food banks, maraes, Barnardos, Pacific community churches and aged care... 1.6 million have already been sent out and the remainder will go out this week," she said.
The remaining two million face masks were sent to Countdown for customers to buy.
The Woolworths Group, which owns Countdown, said disposable face masks were "flowing around the country". If shelves are bare, customers can check back.
"If customers go into stores and can’t find masks, there are more coming," Kate Porter, head of communications and community said.
Encouraging customers to keep checking their local Pak'nSave or New World store, Foodstuffs New Zealand head of corporate affairs Antoinette Laird said it had "over 8 million masks" in supply and they'd be on supermarket shelves as quickly as possible.
"If a store is low or out of mask supply, please rest assured that more stock is on the way," she said.
On Monday, various Pak'nSave stores sold the 'Health Warrior Disposable Face Mask' 25-pack, for just under $30 (prices vary from $29.89 to $29.95), or $1.20 per mask.
The Countdown online pharmacy sold the 'Bactive Protective Face Mask' 50-pack for $54.99: $1.10 per mask.
Ministry of Health supplier Zuru Edge, a consumer business of Zuru, has launched a new website, Bactive.co, from which a 50-pack of single use face masks cost $34.99 (70c per mask), including shipping. Dick Smith has a wide selection of disposable and reusable masks, which can be bought online from $14.95 for a 10-pack ($1.50 per mask).
PriceSpy country manager Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, said 30-day search data revealed the five most popular face masks were all sold through Mitre 10. The most popular household mask was the '3M Household Cleanser Odour respirator' for $12 (stores may have limited stock).
On Sunday, Minister of Health Chris Hipkins reminded New Zealanders they were encouraged to wear a mask for a reason. Masks were strongly recommended, but not compulsory.
"We could make it mandatory, but the issue here is one of supply and also one of acceptance: ultimately, if you make something mandatory, you're talking about a lot of people," he said.