Cheerful masks help battle coronavirus in Bulgaria

Protective masks at a factory in Sofia

Cheerful face masks are helping to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus in Bulgaria thanks to a small company in the capital Sofia.

The masks are printed with owls, dinosaurs, llamas and monkeys and will soon find their way to hundreds of doctors and policemen who are struggling to get their hands on the protective gear.

They're being made by the Angel Baby company, which normally produces sleeping bags for infants and is known for its social responsibility campaigns.

"The idea came to us spontaneously as we got calls from friends asking us to sew them masks," co-owner Desislava Yankova told AFP.

"We stopped our usual production of baby sleeping bags for a week and we hope to be able to make about 3,000 masks to send to hospitals and police stations around the country," she added.

Angel Baby's previous campaigns have included the "Sleeping bag on a mission" -- for every baby sleeping bag sold they donated one to a maternity ward, with more than 6,000 bags given away so far.

They are also giving away the masks for free but warning users that they have not been medically certified, so must be washed daily and ironed at high temperatures.

The company says that the masks given to police and doctors are not intended for use by those in direct contact with coronavirus patients but for others who deal with large numbers of people on a daily basis.