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Medical staff make DIY face masks as COVID-19 triggers shortage in Vietnam

Monday, February 17, 2020, 12:10 GMT+7
Medical staff make DIY face masks as COVID-19 triggers shortage in Vietnam
Quach Thi Hoang Anh, a doctor at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, shows a complete face mask made from scratch in under one minute by the hospital’s medical staff, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

The medical staff at a maternity hospital in Ho Chi Minh City are sewing their own face masks as the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic has triggered a shortage of surgical masks and driven prices up in the Southeast Asian country.

At Tu Du Maternity Hospital in District 1, doctors, nurses and employees have found a more productive way to while away their lunchtime and free time before and after work – making a variety of face masks to equip the hospital’s staff amid the COVID-19 epidemic.

Since Vietnam confirmed its first COVID-19 patients in late January, demand for face masks, fueled by public fears for the new strain of coronavirus, has shot up as residents believe wearing them could protect themselves from the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) claims there is no evidence to support such a belief and recommends washing one’s hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer to reduce the risk of infection instead.

Nevertheless, a medical mask shortage driven by the increased demand has put Vietnam’s health workers, for whom wearing masks is recommended given their being in regular close contact with patients, at risk.

To cope with the short supply, the medical staff at Tu Du Hospital have begun to put together DIY masks in their free time.

They have mastered the techniques for making a variety of masks, from regular single-use paper masks to reusable face masks and even activated carbon masks, in under one minute each using simple and easy-to-find materials such as paper napkins, woven fabric, and elastic bands, sawn together with a mini sewing machine.

Medical staff at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City sew face masks during their lunch break, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Medical staff at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City sew face masks during their lunch break, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

These ‘amateur’ face mask makers told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper they are delighted to join the production process and consider it a relaxing activity to take up after stressful working hours.

The handmade face masks, though not completely aseptic, are still effective in restraining respiratory droplets from the wearer in a hospital setting, they said.

The small team of health workers at the hospital can sew about 50 face masks every noon on average, serving hospital staff, patients, and visitors of the sick.

A health worker sews face masks at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

A health worker sews face masks at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

“Everyone here is very excited. We not only see this as an activity to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic but also a stress-reliever,” said Nguyen Tran Uyen Phuong, a subclinical staff member at Tu Du Hospital.

“In just a little time with simple materials and sewing machines brought to the hospital by our female staff, many beautiful face masks can be created and used to protect our health.”

Male health workers assist in the process of making face masks at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Male health workers assist in the process of making face masks at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

The novel coronavirus disease, officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week, has killed 1,775 people and infected over 71,000 globally since it first surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, according to the South China Morning Post.

Vietnam has so far confirmed 16 cases of the viral infection, including 13 Vietnamese, one Vietnamese American, and two Chinese.

Among them, seven have fully recovered. They were all treated for free.

A health worker disinfects a table with alcohol before making face masks at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

A health worker disinfects a table with alcohol before making face masks at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

A health worker measures the length of elastic bands used in making face masks at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

A health worker measures the length of elastic bands used in making face masks at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Tran Uyen Phuong, a subclinical staff member at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, is photographed making face masks, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Tran Uyen Phuong, a subclinical staff member at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, is photographed making face masks, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Quach Thi Hoang Anh (L), a doctor at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, assists her colleagues in making face masks after her shift, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Quach Thi Hoang Anh (L), a doctor at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, assists her colleagues in making face masks after her shift, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Masks are carefully sewn and cut with meticulousness by the medical staff at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Masks are carefully sewn and cut with meticulousness by the medical staff at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Doan Thi Thanh, deputy head of the rehabilitation ward at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, organizes stacks of face masks made by her colleagues, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Doan Thi Thanh, deputy head of the rehabilitation ward at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, organizes stacks of face masks made by her colleagues, February 13, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

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