Czechs resort to making DIY facemasks in face of their shortage

Photo: ČTK / Ondřej Hájek

Thousands of Czechs have started making DIY facemasks as the Czech Republic continues to face a serious shortage in the current coronavirus outbreak.

Photo: ČTK/Ondřej Hájek

Dozens of instruction videos appeared on Facebook and other social media over the past few days advising people how to make protective facemasks using any material available at home, from old pillow cases, unused T-shirts to plastic bottles and paper handkerchiefs. Thousands of volunteers, including individuals and companies, are producing masks for medical staff in hospitals and for social workers caring for the elderly.

While compulsory wearing of surgical masks has not yet been introduced in the Czech Republic, Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula did not rule out the measure could be introduced if the coronavirus outbreak does not recede. As of this Tuesday, people in Prague are already required to cover their face and nose while travelling on public transport.

Over the past few days, a number of health experts, including head of the Czech Dental Chamber Roman Šmucler, have urged Czechs to cover their nose and mouth in public, no matter whether they whether or not they are ill, arguing that any protection is better than none.

A Facebook group called Česko šije roušky, which shares instructions on how to make DIY facemasks, has some 9,000 members at the moment.

Photo: ČTK/Radek Petrášek
One of the instruction videos on how to make a simple facemask using a paper handkerchief was posted by Pavel Březovský, head of the National Institute of Public Health, which is responsible for running the coronavirus testing in the Czech Republic. It was shared on social media by one of the medical faculties of Prague’s Charles University.

Rector of the Czech Technical University, nuclear physicist Vojtěch Petráček, has posted a picture of himself wearing a home-made mask made from a plastic bottle with directions on how to make one on your own.

Meanwhile, the Technical University in Liberec started producing facemasks made of special nano-material. It has already provided around one thousand pieces to the regional authority, which distributes them to medical and social workers.

According to the university’s spokesman, they could produce up to 2,000 masks a day in the future, which could also be supplied to shop assistants and public transport drivers.

Face masks are also being produced by prisoners in Czech prisons. Prison Service spokeswoman Petra Kučerová announced on Monday that the men’s prison in the east Bohemian town of Pardubice, has already launched its own production. She said prisoners would be able to make up to 40,000 face masks a month.