New Zealand, a country of about 5 million, has 18 million masks in its reserves, with 80,000 being made every day

insider@insider.com (James Pasley)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on March 30 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Mark Mitchell / Getty

  • In a post on Instagram on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had 18 million masks in reserve, with 80,000 more being made a day.
  • It's not clear how many of these are surgical masks, as opposed to the more effective N95 respirators. But the video appears to show surgical masks being made.
  • The US, which has just under 330 million people, has a national stockpile has about 12 million N95 masks and 30 million surgical masks.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

New Zealand, a nation of about 5 million, has 18 million masks in reserve with 80,000 more being made a day, according to its prime minister.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern posted a video on Instagram on Friday of masks being made in a factory in Whanganui, a city in New Zealand's North Island.

New Zealand is under lockdown for a month. As of Tuesday, there were 647 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and one death.

Masks are needed by healthcare professionals to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"I'll admit, I have watched this video more than once. This is a factory in Whanganui churning out face masks to help keep our essential service workers safe," Ardern said in the post.

"They can produce at least 80,000 masks a day (including those our front line health workers need) and with new machinery due in coming weeks and months they will be able to double production.

"Add to that the 18 million masks we already have in our national reserves and we're well stocked."

The previous day, more than 600,000 masks had been distributed to health boards, she said. 

 

There are two common types of hospital masks, Business Insider previously reported. N95 respirators are personal protective equipment that can filter out a lot of airborne particles. When worn correctly, they can block out more than 95% of small airborne particles, meaning they can filter out the types of droplets that carry the coronavirus.

Surgical masks are far looser than N95 respirators. They are designed to stop droplets passing from the wearer's mouth to surfaces or other people. They're primarily meant as a physical barrier to keep healthcare providers or sick people from spreading their germs to patients.

People in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Wednesday.

Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto / Getty

In Ardern's post, it's not clear how many of each type of masks were being made or how the 18 million masks were divided. But the video appears to show surgical masks being made.

In comparison, the US, which has just under 330 million people, has a national stockpile of about 12 million N95 masks and 30 million surgical masks, Business Insider previously reported.

Experts have warned that the US faces a shortage of critical supplies like masks, as the number of cases grows.

The prime minister's office declined Insider's request for comment, saying Ardern's focus was solely on the government's response to COVID-19. 

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