The Kiwi company supplying the world with face masks to fight COVID-19

After being told by health officials wearing a face mask won't do much in the fight against COVID-19, it seems that advice is about to change. 

The US is the latest country now urging all its citizens to wear a mask when leaving the house. 

And with a global shortage of supplies, one Kiwi company is coming to the rescue. 

Chinese factories are working overtime to make masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) but sick of relying on China for products Auckland based company Lanaco decided to step up to the challenge. 

"Most of the world is dependent on China for its air filter media for all of its masks and we've been making an indigenous supply of filter media based on what we grow here in New Zealand, " said Nick Davenport, chief executive officer of Lanaco.

The company's making N95 respirator face masks using specially developed New Zealand sheep wool. 

They've had inquiries from around the globe, including the US, Hong Kong and Australia. 

With demand so high, they're ramping up production from 400,000 masks a month to 1.5 million.

"All corners of the world are chasing our product at the moment," said Davenport. 

That demand could be about to grow.

A scientific panel in the US has found evidence COVID-19 could spread not just by sneezing or coughing but through breathing.

The World Health Organisation has so far avoided telling everyone to wear masks, in a bid to save limited supplies for frontline health care workers. 

The current advice is that you should only wear one if you're caring for someone suspected of having the virus or if you yourself are sick. 

But it's now looking at whether everyone should wear masks in a bid to stop the spread. 

In countries such as Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic it's now compulsory to wear a mask outside the home. 

And today, the US urged all Americans to wear masks of some sort but President Trump says it's not compulsory. 

" I don't think they'll be mandatory because some people don't want to do that," he said.

Back in New Zealand, the advice around wearing masks remains the same - for now.

But should it change,  Davenport and his team are ready to supply our country - rather than relying on China to stop the spread.