Mask producers have been working round the clock to supply last-minute buyers with face masks.
The mad scramble to avoid the $200 penalties which will be imposed on anyone caught without a face covering in Melbourne from 11.59pm on Wednesday has created a boom in business.
Fast becoming a feature of everyday life, Inflation and Chasers nightclub owner-come-mask and hand sanitiser supplier Martha Tsamis told Neos Kosmos that masks are a necessity and proof of this could be seen from her sales; rising from 50 per day to thousands per day so that limits have now been placed to stop people from bulk buying.
Ideal Drape Makers owner Nancy Vamvakas has also seen her business, which once manufactured drapes, blinds and awnings, rush to keep up with mask production with sales increasing day by day.
“In the last few days, each day brings the same amount of sales we made during the whole of March,” Ms Vamvakas said.
For Tsamis, the creation of masks came after she saw disposable masks disguarded in the middle of Chapel Street. It was then that she realised that disposing used masks harms the environment and could risk spreading the infection they’re designed to protect. Solution? She made reusable masks, too fancy to throw out.
“Change your mask everyday and have a mask drawer like you do with your undies and socks,” Ms Tsamis suggested.
What makes Ms Tsamis’ masks even more spectacular is the evil eye twist to ward off the evil COVID-19 spirits. “By wearing an evil eye mask, a person can assure himself or herself of constant protection against the evil eye and off course against the viruses,” says her website on the series of four evil eye-themed masks.
Asked why she stocks only masks with the Greek flag, she jokes, “It’s because I’m a true Greek.”
But jokes and fashion statements aside, Ms Tsamis extols the virtues of her masks from the 100 per cent cotton variety that is so easy to breathe through to the specially ordered satin masks that are ideal for those who suffer from acne she points to dustproof, windproof, three-ply products for adults and children alike.
From selling 50 masks a day, Ms Tsamis is now forced to ration them with demands of around 1,000 masks per day.
Like Ms Tsamis, Ms Vamvakas wondered whether she would need to shut her business when COVID-19 struck. But more importantly, she was concerned about the health of her loved ones. “My elderly father was living with my husband and I, and we were concerned about getting sick, so we made masks,” Ms Vamvakas said.
“And then the lightbulb went off. We could make masks to keep our doors open and stop from going into hibernation. It was a great way to keep our staff employed so we utilised the beautiful drapery fabrics from all over the world.”
Ms Vamvakas said that the mask-making helped unify her team and brought staff members closer together, making masks in the war against COVID-19. “They are appreciative to still have their jobs, and the masks are going like crazy,” she said of the two types of masks with ties or elastic bands which come in three sizes. Wearers have a large array of patterns to choose from, and – why not – they can even go all out and accessories their masks to match their drapes.
One thing is certain, no matter what the pattern, the masks have been created taking science and the latest information on safe practices into account. “Some of the imports, especially from China, have been bought at reduced prices but are faulty and inferior in quality,” Ms Vamvakas warned.
“Buy local and you support local businesses plus also get a product that you can be sure of,” she said, adding that Australian-made masks are comfortable, well-made and affordable.
Though Ms Vamvakas is all too aware of the problems caused by COVID-19, she is no stranger to adversity after living through the last recession which affected her family.
If anything that made her more resilient and creative – and she knows that when life ruins the drapery business, she can make masks.