MANAGUA – Until a few months ago, face shields were alien objects in Nicaragua, but thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, they are now among the most sought-after accessories.
Recently, the country’s medical union recommended the use of shields in addition to masks as they protect the entire face. They soon went from being clunky and uncomfortable medical protective wear to accessories everyone from children to the elderly seek in various materials, prices and designs.
There are fixed, flexible, long-lasting and disposable visors, which are transparent or decorated with famous superheroes or princesses, some with colored borders, some attached to caps or helmets, and generally made of acetate, acrylic, plastic, or polyethylene terephthalate, with prices ranging from $2 to $18.
“Now that we know that the coronavirus is also spread through the eyes, people prefer them because they protect the entire face, they are more practical than glasses, and you don’t have to worry if your mask is not N95,” Nathalyd Borquet Chow, who sells the shields, told EFE.
According to Borquet, face shields have become one of the most requested items in her Managua store, both by individuals and by companies.
They are one of the reasons that Borquet’s business, originally of advertising and embroidery, has not gone under in the midst of the voluntary lockdown that Nicaraguans have entered at the recommendation of doctors.
“There is also a cultural issue here. People now do the opposite of what the government says, so if doctors say you have to take care of yourself, people prefer to listen to doctors. If the government does not mandate a quarantine, people do it voluntarily. If they insist that there is nothing to worry about, people take care of themselves,” he said.
In the northwestern city of Leon, Mercedes Padilla had to close the medical clothing store that she had in front of the departmental hospital due to a lack of clients, but she maintains her income from her home thanks to the sale of personalized visors.
“You look at things on the internet, so I made some visors for myself and for my husband. People began to ask me (for some), now they ask me for dozens. I sell them online. There is already a lot of competition, but what I sell allows me to survive,” Padilla said.
Borquet and Padilla said that even people who live outside the country, mainly in the United States, place orders for the delivery of the products anywhere in Nicaragua.
“This has transformed businesses. There are more online payments, and more (home) deliveries, that were not frequent before in Nicaragua, because purchases were made in person,” Borquet said.
Padilla said that she never thought that, in her mature age, she would have a person advertising her creations from the United States, and clients that she will probably never meet – the opposite of her old business, where she created ties with her buyers.
The success of face shields has also caused an unintended impact on the coronavirus “industry.” Some materials, such as Teflon, foam and acetate, are in short supply, which means that now masks are losing the comfort factor.
“Teflon is more practical, although sometimes women do not like it because it tangles in their hair. It is no longer found or it is more expensive. For foam we now use substitutes,” Borquet said.
Padilla, who produces the visors in an artistic way, uses sew foam even for external aesthetic designs.
The risk of this is that face shields are becoming less comfortable, especially for the elderly and children, who are the biggest customers, Borquet said.
For now, the shields are sold like candy at a children’s fair and carrying them is no longer a rarity.