Clothing businesses make face masks to combat demand

New Zealand manufacturers are turning their businesses into face mask making operations as all frontline health workers are urged to wear face masks in the fight against COVID-19. 

Fashion designer Annah Stretton has turned her factory from one that makes frocks to now creating face masks. 

Another clothing company SeaBreeze has a prototype they are trying to turn into a product. 

They are two of more than 100 manufacturers who have put their hands up to make PPE after the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said any company who makes protective equipment is essential. 

Manufacturing NZ Executive Director Catherine Beard says making face masks for the general public is becoming increasingly important.

"They've been sort of struggling to work through the volume so I think that response times haven't been as quick as we would've liked. "

But advice for the public on whether they should be wearing face masks is confusing.

The World Health Organization says if you do not have symptoms and aren't caring for someone who has coronavirus, you don't have to wear masks.

But despite them not being compulsory in New Zealand, masks are already in major demand. 

Businesses are preparing with the entrepreneurial Mowbray family importing millions of masks to sell back to the New Zealand Government at cost. 

They plan to buy 40 million masks this month, another 30 million in May, and the same in June.

That's not including the 91,000 they plan to sell to private companies including My Food Bag and the Mad Butcher for their workers to wear. 

In the meantime, all doctors in emergency departments are being told to wear masks to stop the spread. 

"There's a lot of evidence from Hong Kong, Singapore, in particular, on healthcare workers that are in direct close contact, touching, breathing, within two and a half metres with patients that it reduces transmission between healthcare workers," Dr John Bonning from the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine said.