BERLIN (Reuters) – A 100-year-old Berlin tailor has been inundated with orders for colourful face masks sewn by its seamstresses after it suspended production of its signature bow ties two weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Auerbach, which is famous for its colourful men’s accessories like scarves and ties, has received 8,000 orders for its hand-made face masks, which sell for 18 euros a piece, since it advertised them late last month.

CEO Jan-Henrik Maria Scheper-Stuke said he had to hire 20 new seamstresses in addition to the seven he had before the crisis to meet the flood of online orders, which continues unabated with 800 to 1,000 new masks ordered every day.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” said Scheper-Stuke. “We make no profit from making masks. We just want to cover our costs. It is just a survival exercise. We can’t wait to return to making ties for weddings and other happy occasions.”

Most of the online orders are from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but there have been some from as far as Hong Kong.

“When we advertised that we are looking for seamstresses in the local newspaper, we received hundreds of applications,” said Scheper-Stuke. “We had to turn people down. And we had to train the new seamstresses how to make masks.”

Germany, which has about 100,000 confirmed cases and just over 1,600 deaths, has not made wearing masks in public compulsory.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that wearing a mask would not necessarily prevent people from catching the coronavirus and that masks made from cloth risk spreading the disease if they are not regularly washed.

“Improper use could be even more fatal,” Merkel said when asked if the government would recommend wearing masks. “You need to wash it regularly, avoid wearing it over a long period of time, iron it, or warm it the oven or the microwave.”

Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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