State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday called on people to make cloth masks at home and enter them in a competition.
Announcing the competition via Facebook, Suu Kyi said people can enter by uploading photos of the masks they craft in a comment next week.
“I wrote yesterday I am wondering if we should hold a home-made cloth mask sewing competition. I learned there is interest from the public, so I decided to hold a competition,” Suu Kyi wrote to her more than two million followers on Facebook.
She said the photos should be posted between Wednesday and Friday to a forthcoming post. The three most-liked comments will be selected as winners of unspecified “prizes.” Eligible masks must meet health standards set by the Ministry of Health, Suu Kyi warned her eager supporters.
“Let’s happily take part in this competition and sew beautiful cloth masks which meet health standards,” she added.
She also uploaded a pamphlet produced by local health authorities citing advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that cotton and linen masks can protect against infectious droplets as well as surgical masks.
Deciding whether to wear a mask has been controversial ever since the coronavirus seized headlines around the world. The World Health Organization has consistently stated that healthy individuals who are not medical workers should not wear them. A WHO bulletin for Myanmar published in early April recommend only those with COVID-19 symptoms or those caring for suspected patients should wear masks.
That advice has been mostly ignored by health officials and leaders of Asian countries, including Myanmar, where all citizens are generally advised to wear masks to stop the spread of the virus. However, it’s not clear how effective cloth masks actually are in preventing transmission.
Since the virus was first detected within Myanmar in late March, Suu Kyi has been communicating regularly with the public via social media. She’s broadcast live discussions with health workers and patients alike in recent weeks.
Two months ago, she appeared in a state media video to model proper hand washing. The mask making competition is her latest public outreach effort in the run-up to general elections likely to be held in November.
To date, the virus has been detected in 176 people, six of whom have died. The full extent of its impact is not known, but it is almost certain to be larger than has been established through limited testing.