The coronavirus outbreak has led to a massive shortage of face masks. From scientists in Prague to fashion designers in Venezuela, these photos show an underground economy of people making their own masks.

Hong Nhung Strnadova with her husband Pavel accompanied by a daughter Zuzana, make face masks at their apartment as a protection from the new coronavirus in Prague on March 17, 2020.

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Hong Nhung Strnadova with her husband Pavel accompanied by a daughter Zuzana, make face masks at their apartment as a protection from the new coronavirus in Prague on March 17, 2020.
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David W Cerny/Reuters
  • The coronavirus pandemic has led to a global shortage of face masks, and people around the world are making their own in response.
  • Face masks are used to protect people from the novel coronavirus. N95 respirators are face masks that block physical particles that spread COVID-19, like saliva and mucus, as well as 95% of airborne particles that spread the illness. Surgical masks, the other common type, can block physical particles, but not necessarily airborne ones.
  • Both types are hard to find amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Face masks are only meant to be worn by sick people and healthcare professionals, according to the World Health Organization. But as the virus continues to spread, some countries, like Venezuela and parts of China, are ordering citizens to wear facemasks in public.
  • As global demand increases, companies are simply running out of face masks. People are making face masks out of everything from old t-shirts to 3D printing technology.
  • Some people are selling masks, like a seamstress in Mexico and a fashion designer duo in Venezuela. Others are giving them away for free, like several communities in Thailand and the Czech Republic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In Thailand, public health officials are encouraging citizens to make their own cloth face masks because of a nationwide shortage due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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A woman shows a face mask she made in a workshop during the coronavirus outbreak, in Bangkok on March 9, 2020.
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Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Panpimon Wipulakorn, Director-General for the Department of Health, told Reuters that cloth masks can prevent people from catching the virus from nearby coughs or sneezes, like a surgical mask.

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Women take part in a workshop to learn how to make face masks to protect against coronavirus in Bangkok on March 9, 2020.
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Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

Source: Reuters


The novel coronavirus spreads primarily through mucus and saliva, so cloth face masks can be effective.

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A woman takes part in a workshop to learn how to make face masks to protect against coronavirus in Bangkok on March 9, 2020.
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David W Cerny/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Some people in Thailand are making cloth face masks and distributing them for free.

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A woman uses a sewing machine during a workshop to learn how to make face masks to protect against coronavirus in Bangkok on March 9, 2020.
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Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

Source: Reuters


To be effective, cloth masks need to be washed daily.

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A woman cuts cloth during a workshop to learn how to make face masks to protect against coronavirus in Bangkok on March 9, 2020.
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Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Thailand set up workshops across the country to teach people how to make masks, and Wipulakorn made a video lesson so people can watch and learn from home.

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Women take part in a workshop to learn how to make face masks to protect against coronavirus in Bangkok on March 9, 2020.
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Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Thailand has more than 720 confirmed cases on coronavirus as of March 23.

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Women take part in a workshop to learn how to make face masks to protect against coronavirus in Bangkok on March 9, 2020.
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Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

Source: US News and World Report


Over in the Czech Republic, people are making masks in many different ways. The government ordered fabric stores to stay open through the pandemic.

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Hong Nhung Strnadova sews pieces of clothes to make face masks at her apartment as a protection from the coronavirus in Prague on March 17, 2020.
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David W Cerny/Reuters

Source: Reuters


So people have been purchasing fabric to sew their own masks.

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Strnadova sews pieces of clothes to make face masks at her apartment as a protection from the coronavirus in Prague on March 17, 2020.
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David W Cerny/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Many people are using fabrics from old t-shirts, and boy scouts are using donated cloth materials.

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Strnadova sews pieces of clothes to make face masks at her apartment as a protection from the new coronavirus, in Prague on March 17, 2020.
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David W Cerny/Reuters

Source: Reuters


The Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics at the Czech Technical University in Prague developed 3D printing technology to make masks amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

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A researcher works on a prototype to develop a respirator in the fight against the coronavirus using 3D-printing technology at the Czech Technical University in Prague on March 17, 2020.
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David W Cerny/Reuters

Source: Reuters


According to the university’s website, their face mask prototype, which is called CIIRC RP95, has been certified as a safety mask.

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A researcher works on a prototype to develop a respirator in the fight against the new coronavirus using 3D-printing technology at CTU in Prague on March 17, 2020.
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David W Cerny/Reuters

Source: Reuters, CTU


The university is working on making certified filters to complete the product.

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A prototype of the product.
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David W Cerny/Reuters

Source: Reuters


In Mexico, Erendira Guerrero, a seamstress, is selling masks to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Erendira Guerrero poses for a photo with a protective face mask at her sewing workshop in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 16, 2020.
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Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Source: Yahoo Finance


Guerrero said she sews profanity onto the masks because she thinks it makes them unique and will help them sell better.

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Erendira Guerrero sews a protective face mask at her sewing workshop in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 16, 2020.
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Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Source: Yahoo Finance


“Us Mexicans somehow always have that little flavor, that joke in the face of adversities,” Guerrero said.

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Erendira Guerrero does embroidery on a protective face mask at her sewing workshop in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 16, 2020.
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Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Source: Yahoo Finance


Over in Venezuela, Nelson Jimenez and Stalina Svieykowsk are clothing designers. While they normally make jackets and school uniforms, they’re making face masks during the pandemic.

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Clothing designers Nelson Jimenez, left, and Stalina Svieykowsky, right, produce face masks in response to the coronavirus in San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela, on March 18, 2020.
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Carolina Cabral/Reuters

Source: Reuters


The duo makes about 150 masks per day, and they model them on their own faces.

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Clothing designer Stalina Svieykowsky models a face mask she made in San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela, on March 18, 2020.
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Carolina Cabral/Reuters

Source: Reuters


They’re selling the masks for less than a US dollar.

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Stalina Svieykowsky uses a sewing machine to produce a face mask in San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela, on March 18, 2020.
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Carolina Cabral/Reuters

Source: Reuters


In Venezuela, citizens have been ordered to wear face masks in public.

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A face mask produced by clothing designers Stalina Svieykowsky and Nelson Jimenez in response to the coronavirus in San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela, on March 18, 2020.
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Carolina Cabral/Reuters

Source: Reuters


They’re hard to find in stores because of the shortage, where they sell for up to $5.60 each.

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Clothing designer Nelson Jimenez assembles a face mask in San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela, on March 18, 2020.
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Carolina Cabral/Reuters

Source: Reuters

NOW WATCH: People are getting creative with face masks during shortage