Some chemists run out of face masks as Kiwis rush to stock up

Some chemists have run out of face masks as Kiwis rushed to stores following the Government telling households to stock them in case we have to go back into a level 2 lockdown. 

On Thursday Health Minster Chris Hipkins said the Ministry of Health has updated its advice on the use of masks by the public as part of the Government's ongoing response to COVID-19.

"We've seen elsewhere masks can play a role in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when worn by the public where there are cases of community transmission," he said. 

A pharmacist says suppliers of face masks will begin rationing to retailers and local manufacturers are struggling to keep up. 

Just a few weeks ago Tussock Ridge Merino was making 30 face masks a day - yesterday they made almost a thousand.

Its boss Malcolm Walkinshaw says on Friday they topped that. 

"Demand's just gone through the roof," he told Newshub. 

Its 12 staff were run off their feet with new orders coming in every two minutes. 

It began as soon as the Ministry of Health told every household to have masks at the ready on Thursday - in case of another outbreak. 

Retailers are also under the pump. The owner of the Unichem and Life Pharmacy chains, Green Cross Health, says some of its stores are temporarily out of stock after an unprecedented increase in demand today. 

It says it's trying to replenish stock at its 361 stores as quickly as possible. 

But that may be difficult - Newshub can reveal a supplier of masks, CDC Pharmaceuticals, is now rationing supply to 500 masks per retailer a day. 

CDC's chief executive Mike Rhodes told Newshub it's a temporary measure that will likely be lifted next week. 

The Ministry of Health is urging New Zealanders to "shop sensibly", saying there's "no need to panic buy"... as there were "13 million disposable masks available" for sale when it made its announcement on Thursday.

If you haven't got a mask yet, Dr Ashley Bloomfield has a weekend activity suggestion.

"It could be quite a fun project with the kids to be making some of your masks at home."

But if you want to buy a reusable one, their makers have a message for you. 

"We'd love to provide you with a face mask but we are struggling with capacity at the moment, and just to be patient with us," said Walkinshaw.

But the virus may not be as patient in the event of a second outbreak.