By RNZ's Charlotte Cook
Mask manufacturers are receiving massive orders after the Government says people will be encouraged to wear them if the country returns to alert level 2.
In new guidance by the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, everyone has been urged to have masks ready in case of a second wave of Covid-19.
The move comes after months of advice from New Zealand officials saying there wasn't enough evidence for the value of masks being worn widely in public. But as of yesterday Health Minister Chris Hipkins joined the call for households to buy them and keep them ready in case they are needed.
"The ministry is now recommending that as part of our collective preparations for any future outbreak of Covid-19 households add sufficient masks for everybody normally resident in the household to the emergency supply kits."
Hipkins said they should be used in shops or public transport if cases start to re-emerge in the community again. He said they don't need to be medical grade.
Christchurch company Earth Sea Sky supplies masks that fit that brief.
During lockdown the business converted their clothing workshop to focus on making masks.
Co-owner Jane Ellis said since the Government announced they've been getting up to 120 orders an hour.
"All I can say is that if I go in and look where dispatch is, usually out of the printer you print out the dispatch labels and they might go from the printer to the floor - well they are going round and round the room at the moment.
"There's significant orders coming in."
The masks come in packs with a filter which is made by the Auckland company, Lanaco.
It had also just launched a mask of its own, which it said filtered at least 95 per cent of airborne particles.
Founder Nick Davenport said if the virus returned, the country would be a lot more prepared.
"When Covid struck here and we went into lockdown in March, we were already manufacturing filter media and we set about establishing a community mask programme.
"We now have 25 companies around the country who are busy selling cloth masks which take our filter insert.
"They're actually flat out at the moment servicing the Australian market. So that's a capacity within New Zealand that did not exist pre-Covid," Davenport said.
Auckland mask company Meo had predominantly served the international market for three years.
Its director, Kenneth Leong, said New Zealanders have been slow on the uptake, but they'd had thousands of orders in the first few hours after the announcement.
"We've been totally inundated with orders. So the orders keep coming through every minute, literally.
"So, not quite what I expected because I thought Kiwis would remain slightly complacent until such time that community transmission occurs."