Wearing a mask in busy public places where distancing is tricky will help stop the spread of Covid-19. Here are some FAQs on mask use: 


Why should I wear a mask?

We could be infected with Covid-19 and not feel sick (asymptomatic) or not feel sick for a few days before symptoms like coughing or fever appear (pre-symptomatic).  During this time, we can unknowingly spread the virus to other people.  Covid-19 can be spread by droplets when we talk, and these droplets can go a lot further than the current 2m distancing advice.  This means, if infected, we can spread the virus to those around us when we go to places like the supermarket just by saying, “Ooo… eggplants are $3.99!”  

A non-fitted surgical mask can block up to 100% of those speech droplets, but surgical masks should be reserved for healthcare workers or other frontline essential workers due to shortages·  Luckily, a layer of cloth in front of our mouth and nose can stop 99% of those droplets infected with the virus.  Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Poland have made wearing masks mandatory in supermarkets and on public transport.  The CDC (Centre of Infectious disease and Prevention) in the US have also advised cloth mask wearing in public.  Out of lockdown, mass masking can help stop the silent transmissions of Covid-19.  

Wearing a mask in public is not for self protection, but to protect others in our community as an act of social solidarity.  If everyone did the same, then the whole community benefits. Influenza modelling shows we need at least 80% of the public to be wearing masks to stop community transmission.  We therefore want to spread the message that “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.”


What about the risks of mask wearing? (E.g. feeling ‘bulletproof’, fiddling with your mask and damp masks spreading the virus)

Covid-19 is a new virus meaning hardly any studies have been done on it.  There has been no randomised control trials that show a damp mask can transmit Covid-19.  Millions of people in Hong Kong, Taiwan and S. Korea wear masks in public, and if there are significant adverse effects of mask wearing, we would expect to see a spike of Covid-19 cases in these countries.  Yet, these countries have contained the virus despite not being in lockdown. 

In other studies on public health safety measures (HIV prevention, the wearing of helmet and seatbelts), there have been no adverse effects at the population level, but rather an improvement of overall safety and wellbeing.  The public should be trusted to act responsibly when wearing a mask.

As for people fiddling with masks, this matters less for the general public as we are using the masks to protect others, so will just be touching our own germs.  This is different from a healthcare professional not wanting to self-contaminate from a patient’s germs. However, proper public education on mask safety can also address these issues. 


How can I use a mask safely?

Essentially, safe mask use involves a lot of hand washing.  Wash your hands before you put a mask on, only touch the ear loops or the ties, and avoid touching the facepiece.  If you touch the facepiece, wash or gel your hands with disinfectant.  Wash your hands after you remove your mask.  Put the mask in a separate bag then wash when you get home. Make sure you wash your hands after you handle used masks. 

Face coverings should not be placed on young children under the age of 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, is incapitated, or is otherwise unable to remove the mask themselves without assistance.  


When do I need to wear a mask?

In busy public places like supermarkets, or on public transport where social distancing can be tricky.

Corvid-19 does not survive in open air so you don’t need to wear a mask when out in the open, riding on your bike, walking the dog or in your own car.


Where can I get a free mask?

We have set up distribution points within supermarkets and pharmacies in different suburbs, and are adding to this list all the time.  Click on ‘Find masks’ to find a distribution point near you. 

If you are an organisation looking for cloth masks, try posting on our

Facebook page,  email us on [email protected] or contact us.


How can I donate masks to the community?

Please go onto our Facebook page, find your suburb with #suburb (e.g. #Waverley) and connect with a #coordinator within your suburb.  Alternatively, distribute directly to the distribution points that have been set up. There are files uploaded onto the Facebook page under the topic pdf for safety instructions and other instructions for #makers.  Alternatively, you can email us on [email protected] or contact us here

If you are an organisation and can donate masks to us as a group, please email us at [email protected]


I want to sew my own mask, do you have a recommended pattern?


Masks do not have to be expensive or complex to be effective. A simple pattern with multiple layers of fabric will work well. Any mask is better than no mask, but a mask without vertical seams is recommended if possible.

If you go onto the Facebook Masks4allOtago page, under the Patterns topics, members have shared their favourite patterns. 

Otherwise, this tutorial here is simple and straightforward. 

What is the best material for cloth masks?

Tightly woven cotton ( Quilting fabric or cotton sheets). If you don’t have those, a T shirt will do.  Try shining a light through the fabric, the less light the cotton lets through, the better!

What kind of filter should I use?

A paper towel folded or paper towel with 2 tissues work well.  Please don’t use vacuum filters as some of these have fibreglass within them.

What if I don’t have elastic?

Use hair ties/ elastic hair bands/ hosiery. If you only have string, you can make these longer and tie the cloth face covering behind your head.  You can also cut up a stretchy T-shirt into strips and use that!

What if I don’t have wire?

Masks don’t have to have a wire – or try using pipe cleaner, twisty tie, or a paperclip in a little pocket sewn at the top to hold in place.

What if I can’t sew?

Try some no sew alternatives! – A turtle neck over your nose and mouth, a bandana with 2 rubber bands. Or cutting up a T shirt as highlighted in the CDC guidelines. This no-sew method has also been popular on the Facebook group page. 

Or the CDC no-sew ideas.


How can I support Masks4AllOtago?

Spread the message by posting a picture of yourself in a cloth mask and sharing it.  Ask your friends to do the same. Tag #masks4allotago #masks4allnz.

  • Become a #maker:  Donate cloth masks for us to give to those in need
  • Help us coordinate within your suburb by becoming a #coordinator, help us #distribute by posting within your #suburb
  • Donate materials: Cotton fabric, elastic, thread, paper/plastic bags, wire, garden ties
  • Help us print out leaflets and instructions