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"As long as people don’t panic, we will have more than enough."
Those were the words of Dunedin pharmacist Chin Loh, who has noticed a run on face masks recently.
"Since [Thursday], people are buying them with most purchases."
The Antidote Pharmacy owner said there had been "renewed interest" in face masks since Health Minister Chris Hipkins talked up their importance.
An explosion in demand nationally followed the signal sent by Mr Hipkins, the Ministry of Health advising New Zealanders to stock up and Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield saying masks would be an important part of the Government’s strategy to manage outbreaks of Covid-19.
The buy-up has rekindled memories of panic buying before the lockdown, although suppliers said people were putting in their orders but not panicking.
Mr Loh said an oversupply of masks after lockdown meant there were more than enough to go around.
Roslyn Pharmacy owner Andrew Hou said he had seen a "significant" increase in demand for masks, both surgical and fabric.
"We had a large amount left over from prior to lockdown and we have sold them all in the last 48 hours," he said yesterday.
Awareness of the Covid-19 outbreak in Victoria, Australia, was one factor.
"I would say mask makers are busy but we are keeping up with demand."
Queenstown-based Bonz Group New Zealand director Oscar Rodwell was at the Invercargill Knight apparel factory yesterday.
"We’ve got knitting machines running full steam," he said.
"People have been visiting our factory shop and buying piles of masks."
The company had been selling masks in China, Europe and the United States, and demand had recently surged in Australia.
Mr Rodwell said wearing of masks had been controversial in New Zealand. The Government’s shift on the subject had provided validation for people deciding owning masks was necessary.
Auckland company Lanaco produces about a million face-mask filters a month for the global market, and the astino wool used is from a breeding programme in Central Otago.
Lanaco chief executive Nick Davenport said filters increased the level of protection.
"We initiated a community mask programme where the community would sew a cloth mask body and we could provide them with a drop-in filter, so it is like an entry-level filter," he said.
Earth Sea Sky’s Dunedin apparel factory is continuing to produce clothing, but Christchurch operations have been converted to creating face masks. The company is one of Lanaco’s partners.
Co-owner David Ellis, formerly of Dunedin, said demand for masks had gone "ballistic".
Former Omarama woman Beckie Wilson, now living in Wellington, makes masks by hand.
Demand dropped off when restrictions were relaxed under Alert Level 2 but had rocketed again from Thursday, she said.
A flurry of recent Covid-19-related activity has not all been about masks.
An initial test of the University of Otago’s contact tracing system through an emergency exercise was carried out.
The scenario was based on a visiting international professor to the Dunedin campus.
University infectious disease emergency planning group chairman Philip Hill said the tracing system used the campus’ wireless network.
In the scenario, the professor developed Covid-19 symptoms the day following her visit.
“The main result was that we were able to identify a large number of contacts and it looks like we identified true contacts and also identified those who could have been a contact, but were not.
"We were able to link them up with their contact details and prove we could contact over 85% of them within 24 hours."