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Hong Kong property development conglomerate New World Development (NWD), the group behind K11 malls across the region, has just launched 35 vending machines dispensing 10 million free surgical face masks in the city to help combat the coronavirus pandemic. NWD partnered with 8 local NGOs to place the machines across all 18 districts in Hong Kong, which will distribute a set of 5 free face masks per week for everyone over a 10-week period.
In collaboration with 8 local NGOs, NWD has placed smart “Mask To Go” vending machines across all districts to dispense 10 million free surgical face masks to people in Hong Kong amid the coronavirus. The NGOs, which include the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong, Salvation Army and the Neighbourhood Advice-Action Council, will provide contactless pre-loaded redemption cards to disadvantaged and low-income groups in the community such as the elderly, disabled and children.
Every Hong Konger is also eligible for the scheme, and can download a mobile app to register for the free pack of 5 face masks per week to avoid needing to queue up and maintain social distance with others.
All the masks are designed to be medical-grade that filter 98% of particles, and are produced and manufactured locally by the group. With two more local mask production lines being set up, NWD has a target of making 7 million more face masks for the next batch – almost enough for one mask per person for the entire Hong Kong population.
It comes as Hong Kong battles a second wave of coronavirus cases, primarily due to “imported” cases from those with a travel history to Europe, the United Kingdom and United States – countries battling the worst of the pandemic in the past few weeks. NWD’s initiative seeks to provide protection for the most vulnerable people in society, such as gig workers and essential non-medical staff such as supermarket cashiers who are unable to work from home and may lack the resources to purchase surgical face masks.
“Medical face masks are an essential protective tool in our fight against Covid-19. It is heartbreaking to see so many people suffer because they simply cannot afford or get a hold of masks, which have become so costly and scarce,” said Adrian Cheng, the third-generation heir and executive vice-chairman of NWD.
In a recent interview with Green Queen, Victoria Wisniewski Otero, founder & CEO of Hong Kong-based charity Resolve Foundation, explained how personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitisers have become an “unforeseen expense” that marginalised groups in the city now face, with “little wiggle room in their budgets.”
Many vulnerable groups in Hong Kong have therefore had to resort to sacrificing their health and safety if they are unable to afford surgical face masks, which doctors in the city recommend wearing in public areas to stem the spread of the virus. The second wave of the pandemic in Hong Kong has also led to additional preventative policies such as requiring masks to be worn on public transport and in eateries, which adds to the constraints facing disadvantaged groups.
Prior to this latest campaign, the group launched a #LoveWithoutBorders initiative to donate US$7 million and 5.5 million masks to partners across Asia and Europe. The group also sourced and delivered 2.5 million masks to South Korea, France, Italy and the United Kingdom through embassies and consulates.
A number of other companies have too redirected some of their operations and resources to help the fight against the pandemic. Luxury brand conglomerate LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton and Dior, recently began producing hand sanitiser instead of perfume, while Christian Siriano is manufacturing face masks for healthcare workers in its fashion houses. Household appliance company Dyson has diverted their operations to create ventilators to help meet the demands of hospitals.
Read our earlier Covid-19 coverage here.
All images courtesy of NWD.