Businesses in KwaZulu-Natal are finding innovative ways to provide their employees and customers with face masks to minimise the health risks of Covid-19.Global Scrap Metal Solutions in Pietermaritzburg made a decision, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s emergency declaration on Sunday, to find a way to protect their staff.Owner, Yugan Govender, said they initially tried to buy disposable masks but there were none available.He then invested in spraypainting respiratory masks for the staff in all five of his branches.“We have also given them knitted white gloves, which they can wash at home. The reason we did this is because we wanted to protect our staff when they were travelling to and from work,” Govender added.“We have since got feedback that everyone is using the masks and that they feel comfortable wearing them.”Employees have to wash their hands before putting on the gloves and must wash the gloves and masks every day.“We are just trying to do our bit, and we hope that other businesses will also get involved and that way we can try and contain the virus in Pietermaritzburg,” Govender said.Entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sue Barnes, meanwhile, has designed a 100% cotton face mask which can reduce the transmission of viral germs.The founder of Subz Pants and Pads and its NPO, Project Dignity, who has also created reusable sanitary pads, nappies, maternity and incontinence wear, said: “I was approached by a retailer at the beginning of February to create a face mask in light of the pandemic.“So, we immediately set to work and created the Subz mask which is washable, sustainable and hypo-allergenic.”Although it is not a medical mask, it has been designed to stop the transfer of germs from surfaces to the face. The wearer is therefore able to confine the spreading of germs that result from sneezing and coughing. Barnes said wearers had to wash their hands thoroughly before putting on the masks, and when removing them, to minimise the chance of germ transference. Masks must also be replaced as soon as they are damp. “We all need to be taking every possible step to minimise the transfer of this contagious disease and protect each other,” said Barnes. “It’s not just about preventing ourselves from contracting the virus, but protecting others who are possibly immune-compromised.”The masks cost R15 each and are available from firstname.lastname@example.orgDemand for face masks is clearly on the rise. Powerbuild, in Hoosen Haffajee Street, Pietermaritzburg, reportedly sold out of white face masks yesterday morning after advertising in The Witness that they had stock. They were due to bring in more stock in the afternoon to keep up with demand.This demand could, however, lead to shortages of equipment for medical staff in hospitals and clinics.The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stressed that healthy people should only wear a mask if they are taking care of a person with a suspected Covid-19 infection.If you do fall ill from the disease, then you should also wear one to minimise the spread of infection through coughing or sneezing.WHO warns, however, that masks are only effective when used in combination with frequent handwashing with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.This advice is backed by the South African Medical Association (SAMA), which is about to embark on an audit of state hospitals and clinics to ensure that they have sufficient stocks of both surgical masks and, more importantly, N925 respirator masks for all frontline staff.The N925 masks are specifically designed to prevent the entry of droplets coughed or sneezed by patients and are used by doctors and nurses caring for Covid-19 patients in hospital.There are concerns, however, that there may not be enough stock as there is a current world-wide shortage of the specialised masks.