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Feature: Surging demand for reusable face masks boosts local business in New Zealand

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) — A surge in demand for reusable face masks in New Zealand has created new opportunities for businesses in the fashion and manufacturing industry.

Helen Hall owns a garment factory in North Shore Auckland for more than 10 years. The factory used to make sample clothes for local fashion companies. When the New Zealand government recommended the general public to use face coverings as one of the health measures to combat COVID-19 from August, the family business saw a surging demand for fabric face masks.

“The demand for our fabric face masks grew quite quickly just from last month. Some orders are from business partners, others are from online purchase. We are now putting almost all our resources making masks, which is a new product line for us,” Hall told Xinhua on Monday.

Face covering in public transport is mandatory at COVID-19 Alert Level 2 and 3 in New Zealand. Meanwhile, people are encouraged to wear reusable and washable cloth face masks rather than disposable medical masks.

Auckland resident Aaron Zhou told Xinhua that as a younger generation, he preferred reusable masks.

“I sometimes saw disposable masks being disposed at beaches, playgrounds and grasslands, which I believe was causing additional health and environmental concerns,” said Zhou.

The demand for reusable face coverings gives businesses like Hall’s a new opportunity. While the prices for reusable masks are higher, New Zealand people are weighing both the economic and environmental costs.

“I only need to prepare two reusable face masks instead of having to throw away single-use masks, which are not cheap either, to cause additional environmental burden,” said Zhou.

Meanwhile, specialized mask manufacturers are reinforcing their brand images combining scientific and fashionable design.

MEO, featuring its patented wool-based filters, manuka oil and fashionable design, had saw the demand for its face masks taking off at the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. Only established in 2016, the company reaches production capacity of 15 million face masks per month.

To meet the high demand, the company employed approximately 100 people at peak period. Three product lines were operational at full capacity, with two additional lines coming by the end of this year.

Even though, there was not an industrial standard for face masks in New Zealand, MEO Managing Director Kenneth Leong wanted his products to keep a high standard.

Zhou believes that the reusable masks are more comfortable to wear. “The filter can be replaced and I may still breathe freely while protecting myself from the virus,” he said.

Online order is where most of the surging demand came from. Hall is now busy branding the face masks online with a newly developed website and a Facebook page.

While MEO saw the number of its New Zealand online orders surged by 1,100 percent when Auckland region was hit by a second wave in mid-August.

Hall’s mother, who lives in a retirement village, was able to sell many of Hall’s products to the elderly living there. “There is also a big demand for face masks in the retirement village and people still need more,” said Hall.

Residential care facilities make up some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable communities. Cluster outbreaks of COVID-19 were recorded in five aged residential care facilities earlier in April in the country.

Each reusable face mask is sold from 15 to 65 New Zealand dollars (9.8 to 43 U.S. dollars) depending on the quality and design and whether a filter is included. Enditem

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