Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, few people other than those in certain sectors knew what PPE was--and fewer still knew that the acronym stood for personal protective equipment. All that has changed, and the term is now widely recognised as news headlines around the world have been dominated by reports of shortages of PPE and the vital need to secure supplies.

It is estimated that the world's frontline health care workers alone are using around 44 mn nonwoven fabric-based PPE items daily during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, there will be growing demand for face masks outside health care settings as the wearing of face masks is being advised by the authorities in many countries around the world. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, most PPE manufactured in China. However, lockdowns imposed in China as a result of COVID-19 disrupted manufacturing operations and led to shortages of supplies for Western countries as demand surged.

In order to overcome this shortage, many apparel manufacturing and supply chains have been reconfigured rapidly and some production operations have been "reshored" from Asia to Europe and the USA. In this report, Robin Anson analyses the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on demand for PPE with particular reference to face masks. Also, he provides an overview of the requirements of face masks and discusses the involvement of performance apparel companies and other organisations in initiatives to fight COVID-19, including: Austral, Carrington Textiles, Gerber Technology, Klopman, Milliken & Company, New Balance, Nike, O'Neills, Parkdale Mills, Renfro, and Under Armour.