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Northern Ireland designer producing face masks for frontline workers tackling Covid-19

Mary Murphy

A Northern Ireland designer has turned her attention to producing face masks for frontline workers tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Mary Murphy has re-purposed her design for manufacture skills to research and create the safest standard of facemasks possible that can protect frontline healthcare staff and their patients.

Ms Murphy, who lives with her family in Magherafelt, followed up her aeronautical engineering Master’s degree with a city and guilds creative techniques for fashion course at Belfast Met, graduating in 2012.

When she realised that there was going to be a shortage in face masks due to Covid-19 she set up the public Facebook group Masks 4 All Ireland – Sewists Against COVID-19 where people could volunteer their time to sew face masks, donate material or money to help care workers.

There are now more than 3,000 members and around 4500 volunteers sewing face masks, producing an average of 12,000 masks to date with a weekly output of more than 4000 each week.

“As there is a shortage of surgical face masks, one cannot underestimate the importance of making masks that are as safe as a cloth mask can possibly be, as they need to fit perfectly over the nose and face with for example, elastic straps around the head and not ears, so there are no gaps,” she said.

“This design, using cotton material with space for a filter can offer safety to staff and patients in the absence of surgical masks, and can be reused and boil washed.  They are designed for the best filtration possible and for longevity as they are such a limited resource”

“It is concerning that many face masks don’t completely fit to the face, and that hospital staff are unable to use face masks unless they are surgical masks which are in very short supply.  Our masks are donated from the project, and  material costs are supported by both fabric donations and our Go Fund Me appeal.”