Volunteer project helps supply free masks for key workers

The DIY Covid Mask Project has already supplied masks to care home staff and aims to supply 10,000 suitable masks in total for key workers.

With a huge shortage of PPE across the UK, workers on the frontline are in desperate need of suitable protection against coronavirus.

A project, launched by design engineer Roger Hadland and his Hertfordshire neighbour Naomi Woodstock, works with volunteers to help supply key workers in need of PPE.

The DIY Covid Mask Project was launched because of a publicised shortage of PPE across the UK.

Through the support of an anonymous benefactor, the project currently has enough materials to produce 10,000 masks.

Working with volunteers who are able to sew, participants can ask for free kits with sewing materials to create masks to provide to their local establishments in need of PPE.

Naomi told Oh My Goodness: “We are delighted at the response so far. Since launching the website just a few weeks ago we have over 80 volunteers around the country making 3250 masks.

Care homes have already started to receive the masks. (Naomi Woodstock)

“Our priority at the start of this project was care homes [as] we knew that they were struggling to get enough PPE and the number of deaths in care homes just proves that our focus is right. Having said that, we welcome all key workers and have seen an increase in the demand for schools since the announcement on Sunday.”

The basic mask, that anyone can make at home with the right materials, uses a filter that offers more two-way protection than other clothing fabrics.

Many medical reports suggest that a specific grade of mask, the N95, will offer five times more protection than not wearing one at all. The N95 collects 95% of particles and 0.3 microns.

Collaborating with medical professionals, Roger found something as close as he could get to the N95 which absorbs 85% of particles and 0.5 microns, and a much higher percentage of larger particles.

The HEPA 10 fabric used for the masks is made from synthetic electret fibres and is the same material used in high quality vacuum cleaner bags such as the Numatic NVM-1CH, known as the Henry hoover, Hepa-Flo filter bags and the larger NVM-3BH.

They can also be sterilised by heating in a standard oven at 70°C for 60 minutes and therefore are reusable.

Over 80 volunteers have already started to make the masks, with over 3250 already made. (Naomi Woodstock)

While the mask is an improvement over the standard of IIR surgical masks, it is not up to the standard of N95 masks and has not been CE approved.

The materials used have been declared as safe however, but masks are worn at the personal choice of the wearer.

Volunteers can ask for free kits with sewing materials for 30 or 50 masks to create so they can supply to their local hospitals and care homes.

Masks have already been delivered to care homes, who have had particularly short numbers of PPE during this pandemic.

Karoline Gullin, manager at Friars Mead Care Home in Kings Langley, told Oh My Goodness: “They are more comfortable [and] fit much better than the NHS IIR masks as they can be adjusted for each person as they have a toggle at the back.”

Frairs Mead Care Home have since requested 50 more masks.

Naomi said that they have also had requests from hospices, funeral directors and churches where food banks have been set up.

She added: “Everyone working on the project is a volunteer. We are still looking for more volunteers who have a sewing machine who would like to find key workers local to them to make the masks for. A pack of 50 will make 55 masks as we are saying to our volunteers that they can keep five masks for their personal use.

Anyone who has a sewing machine can get involved in helping supply the masks to key workers. (Naomi Woodstock)

“Once we have reached our target of 10,000 we will review the situation and speak to the benefactor who has donated the funds for the materials.”

If you would like to receive a kit and offer your support, you can visit the DIY Covid Mask Project website.

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