Australia First: Masks Made and Tested in South Australia

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
April 18, 2020Updated: April 18, 2020

Millions of respirator and surgical masks needed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 will be produced at Australia’s first face mask testing facilities established in Adelaide.

The state government is allocating $450,000 for the project where more than 20 million masks will be produced each month for local and national markets.

The equipment will be tested at Flinders University and the University of South Australia laboratories and will begin production in May.

Flinders University’s Karen Reynolds said face masks needed to meet strict standards to protect hospital staff, needing to filter out bacteria, resist blood, withstand wear and tear, and still be breathable.

Innovation and Skills Minister David Pisoni said as China produced most of the global supply of face masks, science, research and collaboration have never been more important.

“Usually testing is undertaken in the United States, taking around three weeks,” Pisoni said.

“With this new testing facility, we will be able to deliver this medical equipment to hospitals within weeks, substantially faster than previously.”

Last month, SA packing company Detmold was commissioned by the state and federal governments to establish a respirator and surgical mask manufacturing capability in Brompton.

The company produced 45 million face masks for SA Health and 100 million for the federal government’s National Medical Stockpile.

Meanwhile, SA health officials are waiting anxiously to see if a surge in testing will flush out more COVID-19 cases.

After relaxing the testing criteria, SA has begun a two-week “blitz” with an expectation it will conduct more than 2000 tests each day.

The state’s total remains at 435 after no new cases were reported on April 18.

Of that, 79 percent have recovered, leaving only 89 active cases.

There are seven people hospitalised, with two in intensive care.

Four cases remain to be community transmitted.

There were 2,000 tests conducted on Thursday, which have been processed and showed all negative COVID-19 results.

Friday also recorded the same amount but the outcome is yet to be determined.

SA pathology has undertaken 41,000 tests in total, meaning more than two percent of the state’s population has been tested.

By Emily Cosenza in Adelaide