A stitch in time: Malaysian designer turns her hand to virus masks – dpa international


People weating masks entering a pharmacy in Kuala Lumpur on the eve of the lockdown on March 17 2020 (Simon Roughneen)


Two weeks from the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Instant Hijabs UK founder Eliesmaziah Alias is usually busy sewing quick-fit headgear for dispatch across Britain and to her native Malaysia.

Not this year, however. Not only has the new coronavirus pandemic killed 102,000 people worldwide and infected almost 1.7 million, it has forced dozens of countries into lockdown, leaving places of worship closed and reducing religious holidays to non-events.

“It has been quiet,” the 46-year-old said. “I think people are worried about uncertanties.”

With coronavirus rampant in Britain, where more almost 9,000 people have died out of over 74,000 confirmed infections, Eliesmaziah has turned her hand to making re-usable protective masks, mostly for medics working at a nearby hospital in Manchester.

Like many European countries, Britain faced a shortage of personal protective equipment after the virus spread from China and neighbouring Asian countries to Europe.

“There was a shortage of masks,” Eliesmaziah said. “We have to take care of the frontliners and the key workers as a priority so that they can look after everyone else.”

Nurses and doctors have raised concerns about using hospital-issued PPE while commuting, so Eliesmaziah decided to come up with a workaround.

“I made the masks for them to use on their journey to and from work,” she said. The masks, which can be washed, sterilized and re-used, are “made of cotton material with space for a disposable filter.”

While Covid-19 is taking a heavy toll on Eliesmaziah’s adopted country, 70 people have died in her homeland after contracting the disease, with 4,336 reported cases by Saturday morning.

“My family and most of my friends are there,” Eliesmaziah said, adding that social media and messaging applications enable her to stay in touch with people in her native land – and to share potentially life-saving health and sanitation tips.

“People have been making homemade face shields, my friends have been sewing PPE sets for hospital,” she said, adding that she and her doctor husband have been posting videos online showing how to make hand sanitizer.

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