When fatalities from the Coronavirus pandemic have reached a peak in the country, there is good news for panic-stricken people to feel relieved. Bangladesh Investment Development Authority under the Prime Minister Office (PMO) has initiated a project with a view to manufacturing an adequate number of cloth masks (another name ELLA Mask) to meet the growing demand for quality and low-cost masks in the country.
A renowned Bangladeshi-origin American scientist is of the view that home-made masks can be even better than medical masks. In response to ‘what makes home-made masks better’, Professor Taher M Saif says, “In the case of the coronavirus, droplets spread from symptomatic as well as pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic infected individuals.”
He added that a healthy individual can get infected by inhaling virus loaded droplets. We find that masks made of 2-layered T-shirts are better than medical masks both compared to droplet blocking efficiency and in breathability.
“Home-made, 2-layer masks ensure more airflow through the mask cloth and less through the sides. There is not much benefit in using 3 layers. In fact, 3-layer masks lessen breathability and compel more air through sides, augmenting the risk of infection,” Taher M Saif concluded.
PMO on 19 March took up the project in order to give away cloth masks (made up of two-layered T-shirts) free of cost across the country through the deputy commissioners. Forming an alliance named ELLA ( Eco-friendly Low-cost Liquid Absorbent), more than 10 garment factories including Beximco have joined the government-run initiative ( ELLA Pad).
The project (to make cloth masks) is being implemented in all 64 districts and 1000 masks will be distributed to the districts each, said Abul Khair Md Hafizuddin, Project Director (deputy secretary) for entrepreneurs creation and skill development project under the PMO.
He said 50000 more cloth masks were given away among people in different places including the PMO, adding that different garment factories including those under the ELLA are manufacturing these masks.
Alongside countrywide mask-distribution, garment factories under the ELLA Pad have provided two million cloth masks to their own workers and people belonged to them. Co-coordinator of the ELLA alliance Mamunur Rahman-under whose direction workers are now making cloth masks–said different products can be made of clothes discarded from the factories and added that they have begun producing cloth-manufactured masks through skilled workers on a limited scale for many reasons including that of workers’ safety.
Mamunur, a former UNO employee who received many international awards and accolades for making different products using scraps said all physicians and officers of the American Embassy in Dhaka are wearing an ELLA-produced cloth mask on a regular basis.
Mentioning that workers are capable of making masks within a short time, he said that in a few days, they will be able to produce 32 crore masks for the country’ overall population. The concerned authority gave approval in using the masks in the embassy, he said, adding that icddr,b and ELLA are likely to jointly produce the cloth masks.
Mask production has opened up ways for workers to earn money during countrywide lockdown when many of them lost their jobs due to the coronavirus -induced crisis. Since its formation, the ELLA has taken suggestions from the experts of Icdddr,b the University of Sussex and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at different phases.
This initiative to produce masks has been taken up at a time when large-scale dumping of health hazardous medical wastes like surgical masks and hand-gloves has become a matter of public concern.
It’s worth mentioning that experts raised questions about the quality of different types of masks- specialized, surgical, N 95, KN 95 and FFP2 being sold at high prices due to growing demand.