Know your mask
It is now compulsory for all South Africans to wear cloth face masks when they are in public. We speak to the owners of Kekago Enterprise and Lonsego Clothing, who manufacture and distribute cloth face masks in Tembisa.
Before the national lockdown was imposed at the end of March, fashion designer Judy Mabona had already been receiving orders for cloth face masks. She was making the masks for herself and her family.
But, her business gained in popularity when she started collaborating with Kedibone Bonoko, who is in charge of marketing and distribution.
“I’m a creative and I didn’t like how the surgical masks looked — so I decided to create something that was trendy with material that I had in my business,” says Mabona.
Masks for all
The eye-catching face masks, made from vibrant African print material, were first noticed at a funeral that Mabona attended with her family in Mpumalanga.
“Everyone at the funeral wanted to know where I got the masks. They then asked me to make some for them and they would pay. I then realised that these masks had a potential of selling even though masks were not mandatory at the time”.
A single-layered face mask costs R30, a double-layered mask costs R40 and a triple-layered mask costs R50. The tiered costing options are to keep masks affordable for everyone — and issue Bonoko is passionate about.
“We realise that not everyone can afford to buy a mask so we thought that having the different layers at different prices would make them affordable to even those who might not have money. Everyone deserves to have a mask now that we’re all expected to wear them”.
The business currently employs six people, and also sells the masks at discounted prices for other entrepreneurs who resell them. The demand for cloth face masks increased during level five of the lockdown, and Mabona says that this has resulted in challenges for business growth
“We struggled with the supply of material, like elastic bands, and we have had to make special arrangements with suppliers who were closed at the time. We would call to make an order and they would arrange for us to collect the material despite their closure.”
According to the Department of Health spokesperson, Popo Maja, cloth masks “are not personal protective equipment, but are a public health intervention that allows for safe hygienic practice by an individual.”
He also says that the masks should be washed every day, which is why the Department of Employment and Labour advises employees to have a minimum of two cloth face masks.
Maria Mhlanga recently bought triple-layered disposable face masks from a local retail store, after reading that cloth face masks were not medical grade.
“Wearing the mask is a must and it’s actually good for protection. But, it’s not comfortable and breathing is a bit difficult under it.”
She says that she only wears the mask when she goes out to buy essentials and that she feels safer using the surgical mask instead of a cloth mask because it;s more effective.
Guidelines for mask use
According to the recommended production guidelines set by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), cloth masks for the general public are only used as part of a broader solution to curb the spread of Covid-19, and must always be used with other hygienic methods of prevention such as hand washing, maintaining physical distancing and covering your mouth with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough.
These are some of the things to look out for when buying or making a cloth mask:
- Masks must not prevent you from breathing easily,
- Masks must be designed to fit and be comfortable to wear,
- Cleaning and disinfection of all the components should be easy to be carried out at home, and;
- All components should be durable and should maintain their integrity during the full expected life span of the product or components.
The DTI also recommends that people use masks with at least two layers, but highly recommends the use of masks with three layers as they provide additional protection. — Health-e News
For more information on Covid-19 in South Africa, you can call the toll-free line on 0800 029 999, or you can send a message that says “Hi” on WhatsApp to the number 060 012 3456. You can also visit the SA Coronavirus website.