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By Machela Osagboro

Antiguans and Barbudans are showing their creative spirit amid new rules mandating residents to wear face masks in public places to slow the coronavirus spread.

With limited supplies of the protective gear available, many have resorted to making their own.

 One crafter, Helene Desilva, said she had decided to put her skills to the test and get to work.

“Being a person who likes to crochet I decided to try it out. After finishing the first one I used a piece of cotton to line it and gave it to my daughter,” she told Observer.

She said that after a few family members and coworkers saw her posts on Facebook they started to place orders. Desilva said it takes her up to one hour to make each mask which she pads with T-shirt material for extra protection.

Other residents have even resorted to using bikini cup liners to cover their mouth and nostrils, or bandanas fashioned from promotional rags, fitted with elastic bands to go around the ears.

Local health chiefs said on Sunday that “all persons venturing into public spaces outside of their homes —  including to gas stations, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, doctors’ offices, bakeries and all other essential services — will shortly be required to wear masks that cover their nostrils and their mouths.”

Ambassador Lionel Hurst acknowledged that there are not enough masks available for each household to comply to World Health Organization guidelines recommending the frequent changing of masks. He advised people to create their own.

Hurst said local seamstresses are also hard at work making masks on behalf of the government.

He added that workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus battle, such as supermarket staff, nurses, doctors, soldiers, police officers, pharmacists and port employees, would be among the first to be issued with them.

Political leader of the UPP, Harold Lovell, also encouraged “local seamstresses, tailors and artisans to step up and use their talent and creativity to join the fight against Covid-19.”

Lovell added, “Let us all work together, to contribute to this community effort, so that we can increase the distribution of additional masks as soon as possible.”

The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) is urging people to adhere to strict hand washing before and after applying masks as well as when the mask is taken off and discarded.

“It is strongly advised that masks should be worn when going outside and also at home while still practicing social distancing,” NODS said in a statement.

The USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) says cloth face coverings, fashioned from household items or other common materials, can be a valuable tool in preventing the transmission of Covid-19.

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