Doctor distributes many masks

Dr Ling Chan, a pathology doctor in Dunedin, and her daughter, Isla Ansell (6), holding her doll...
Dr Ling Chan, a pathology doctor in Dunedin, and her daughter, Isla Ansell (6), holding her doll also called Isla, display some of the cloth masks made in their home office. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O'CONNOR
An organisation started by a Dunedin doctor has distributed hundreds of masks to frontline workers to fight Covid-19.

Dunedin pathology doctor Ling Chan started Masks4AllOtago, which has been connecting "grassroots" mask makers and distributing them to essential services.

Within one week, the team donated about 300 cloth masks to a range of essential services, including Antidote pharmacies, supermarkets and the Aurora Health Centre.

Dr Chan and the group of Otago doctors behind the organisation are also calling on the Government to increase the use of masks.

While New Zealanders may move out of the Level 4 lockdown soon, it would be more important than ever to ensure people were wearing masks, she said.

The Ministry of Health does not recommend most people in the community wear face masks.

However, for people with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection, the World Health Organisation recommends there may be benefit in wearing a face mask to reduce the spread of infection to other people.

Dr Chan said a paper published in science journal Nature earlier this month concluded a non-fitted surgical mask could reduce coronavirus droplet transmission.

And while a surgical mask would be better than a cloth mask, a cloth mask would be better than nothing.

The Masks4AllOtago team had written a letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, calling on them to change the message surrounding mask wearing.

The letter asked that public officials "strongly" encourage the widespread use of face masks in public.

Dr Chan acknowledged that while evidence could not be perfect, given a lack of time to do randomised controlled trials on the new disease, it had been "compelling".

But she believed a change could not happen unless people were willing to change their mindset.

"Mass masking is not for self-protection but as an act to protect others in the community and an act of social solidarity."

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