DOST Provides WHO-Compliant REwear Face Masks to Gov’t Agencies

Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current Affairs

By EDD K. USMAN

(SDN) — MORE face masks compliant with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines is what the moment needs now.

Some countries have made the wearing of face masks mandatory as shield from droplets or aerosols carrying the novel coronavirus and to potentially prevent transmitting and spreading the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

In the Philippines the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) earlier issued Resolution No. 18. The resolution made mandatory the wearing of face masks for the public as a first line of defense against potential infection.

One of the government organizations focused on supplying face masks, if not the only one, is the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). This is now being done of which the target number is half a million face masks.

That’s only from an agency of the DOST, the Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI) headed by Director Celia B. Elumba. 

Not to forget the DOST and its 18 attached agencies and regional offices have been contributing personnel, resources, and technologies to aid in the battle to defeat Covid-19.

Latest figures from the Department of Health (DOH) put the Philippine confirmed cases at 119,460, recovered patients at 66,270. Fatalities rose to 2,150 says CoronaTracker.com.

According to Worldometer.info the global cases climbed to over 19 million, fatalities at 711,909, and recovered numbering 12,195,821.

Back to the masks

Related story: REwear Face Mask Found Conforming to WHO Guidelines — DOST

The PTRI director said over a hundred thousand have already been manufactured.

“We have produced some 103,000 and deployed about 68,000 provided through DOST/other agencies and the OCD (Office of Civil Defense), starting with the BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) and OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration),” Elumba tells SDN — Science & Digital News.

PTRI Director Celia B. Elumba
PTRI Director Celia B. Elumba. She is the project leader of the DOST-funded ‘REwear Face Mask Made Smart.’ (Source: PTRI)

“As you know, we developed the technology — we are not ourselves producing except for the formulation of the water repellency finishing — we are orchestrating the production with the help of three mask manufacturers: Bayo, Inc., Reliance Producers, and soon, a third one. Fabrics come from a knit manufacturer, Knit Asia, and the processing is done by Saffron Philippines. It’s Filipino-made,” she emphasizes.

25 million masks equivalent

DOST under the leadership of Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña funded the research project for the “REwear Face Mask Made Smart”.

Elumba pointed out the project “aims to develop a quick response mechanism, and deploys 500,000 re-usable face masks employing a Smart Textile finishing technology developed at the DOST-PTRI.”

The PTRI explained that 500,000 of REwear Face Masks are like millions of masks.

“Equivalent to 25 million masks, these reusable, washable, and re-wearable masks with non-toxic textile water-repellent finishing technology on the outer piece of cloth face masks protect the wearer from potential liquid-borne contaminants such as viruses and microbes from reaching the wearer’s mouth and nose,” the PTRI assures in an article on its website.

System for safety assurance

Elumba added that PTRI created the face masks to address the “critical need for face masks” in the time of the global pandemic.

“Beyond the technology and the mechanism, REwear also stands for a system for safety assurance for these quick response initiatives,” she says.

Earlier, Elumba noted that the PTRI-created face mask was “found to adhere” to the guidelines the WHO issued for non-medical face masks.

Probably the best thing about the REwear Face Mask is its being usable up to 50 times compared to one-time use disposable masks. Users only have to follow the washing instructions that come with every pack of the PTRI mask.

Its four-layer and close-fitting masks, the PTRI pointed out, are also from “cotton-based fabrics that make them highly absorbent, breathable and comfortable to use.”

DOST is providing REwear Face Masks to gov't agenciee.
Boxes of REwear Face Masks. (Source: PTRI)

Elumba, the REwear project leader, clarified that the REwear “masks alone do not provide the sole solution to the pandemic.”

She adds:

“The mask is a first line of defense and is only one of preventive or hygiene measures which includes respiratory hygiene, frequent and proper hand-washing, physical distancing and avoidance of face-touching.”

“While ordinary cloth masks may provide 38-50 percent protection against particulates, this is not adequate for liquid-borne pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2.”

(SARS-CoV-2 stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2, the cause of Covid-19.)

As this developed, PTRI “is actively looking for textile manufacturers who will adopt the water-repellent technology, produce water-repellent fabric, and REwear face masks, to make them available to the market.” (SDN/PTRI)

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