Nima Wangdi 

The reopening of schools has exposed students and teachers to increased risks of contracting Covid-19. Project HOPE under the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon (OGZ) has been stitching and distributing quality face masks to schools to enhance safety. 

Project head of mask production, Zimpon Wogma Pema Rinzing Rinchen said the masks were distributed to schools across the country. 

“For the students, in particular, the distribution of masks is going to be the first line of defence during this period,” he said. “The first lot was distributed last year and now the second lot is being distributed.” 

He said the masks are reusable so that teachers and students will not have to keep buying masks. “Besides the economic benefit, it also helps reduce mask waste. These masks can be washed and reused.” He said, around 1 million 3D and X-shaped masks have been produced to date and they were given to the frontline workers and students all over the country. “Many of the front line users have expressed their feelings of this being a little more varied in terms of the comfort and its quality with breathing space in between the three layers, water repellent and breathable.” 

He said the masks are tripled layered and of varying sizes. With about 9,300 teachers and 157,0000 students in the government schools who would be constantly interacting on a regular basis, its usage is going to be even more profound. 

“The Command was issued to HRH Princess Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck to lead the facemask production with the best design and comfort. Project HOPE under OGZ was assigned to work on the production details given its association with the armed force spouses having been professionally trained in tailoring during this pandemic,” he said. 

He said that Her Royal Highness Princess chose the most appropriate fabrics, ear strings and the nose divider by visiting the mills in Bangkok and upon detailed research worked on the 3D design that was of best fit and of the highest safeguard. 

The mass cutting and pressing equipment were also sourced and carried out by a master tailor keeping in mind the quality and the minimal waste. 

He said the Druk Gyalpoi Kidu team identified 225 tailors without work in Thimphu and Paro to stitch the masks. They were paid a stitching charge of Nu 10 a piece. This was intended to provide a source of livelihood to tailors without work. 

Around 30 apprentices of the armed force personnel trained under Project HOPE also helped them. The project and de-suups did the major portion of work involving cutting, washing, sanitizing, and drying, among others. 

For students, in particular, this would be the first line of defence as the country records an increasing number of cases. 

Sangay Choden, who completed Class X from Baling Central School in Tashiyangtse said she received the mask last year. “I still have it as it was a solera from the His Majesty.” She said everyone in her school wore them with the uniform. 

Another student, Karma Phuntsho said he received a grey mask last year and did not have to ask his parents to buy it. “It was comfortable.” 

Teachers said they were grateful to His Majesty for the masks. 

“It encourages us to work with better caution and prevention,” a teacher said.