Mask project makes the cut

2020-03-31 06:01
A machinist manufacturing masks from a small factory in Elsies River.

A machinist manufacturing masks from a small factory in Elsies River.

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Not even the lockdown could stop Henry Ludski’s plans to manufacture one million free masks for people living in vulnerable areas – but mounting costs might.

Ludski, the owner of Colour Plus Textiles, a company in Woodstock that print fabrics for retailers, fashion designers and corporates, says he has been granted a permit to continue his operation as an essential service.

The Plumstead resident says he only received the permit on Thursday, 26 March – the last day before lockdown.

“With all of the factories and shops closing, it was a mad rush to secure all of the fabric supplies: elastics, cotton, needles, ink and paper.”

Ludski also had to jump to get all of the safety measurements set in place for employees as prescribed by the government, including hiring a vehicle to transport employees from their homes to their place of work and back again.

In total, there are about 10 staff members printing and 60 people manufacturing from various small cut make trim (CMT) factories.

Originally, the SA Clothing Workers Union was going to take care of the manufacturing and distribution, free of charge. But with the closure of its factories, that plan fell through.

In addition to having supplied about 30 000m of material from his factory’s reserve stock, Ludski is now also having to carry the manufacturing cost – R2 per mask paid to the CMT’s and his printing staff’s salaries.

He says there have been some donations – financial and roles of material– from a few companies and even from his family members in Canada and Australia, but, he says, that isn’t enough to keep operations going for the entire lockdown period.

“I am carrying on to the extent that I can afford it. We will continue for the next week, but after that, I don’t know.”

Thus far, the number of masks produced stands at 230 000.

In an interview with Aden Thomas on HeartFM last week, Ludski said for distribution, he is looking to non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners to ensure that the masks get to those who need it most.

“I don’t have the infrastructure to do the distribution. I am in discussion with NGOs to supply them with bigger quantities. A lot of them are groups who represent immunodeficient children.”

Ludski explained that the focus was primarily on vulnerable groups – the poorest of the poor.

“I have noticed what has happened. More affluent people are going bulk shopping in an insane way. They can get their professional masks and their medical aid sorted. I grew up in a poor neighbourhood and I know what is going to happen there. They don’t have any resources, they don’t have masks.”

A big debate at the moment is how safe the masks are. Ludski said they were constantly making refinements to the masks to ensure it met statutory certification requirements.

“And I have got a lot of assistance from people in the health and medical industries regarding that. To make them more effective.”

Ludksi says masks on their own are not 100% effective.

“They are not surgical masks. The protection now is that it will stop you from touching your face and nose and so forth.”

Before entering the textile industry, Ludski was a journalist for 20 years. Coming from somewhat of an activism background, he said he didn’t like what was happening now.

“Everyone is trying to profiteer. Everybody and his dog are trying to make sanitiser and everyone is also trying to make masks. All in all, it is a good thing. Many people can make masks, but if they profiteer, there is nothing I can do about that. I hope that efforts like mine will cut out profiteering.”

V To support Ludski’s efforts, WhatsApp him on 079 138 1875.

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