• The masks can be turned into parts for makeshift ventilators, a medical device used to feed oxygen to patients with severe difficulty breathing.
  • It's a method that was pioneered by engineers in Italy, when the country started running out of ventilators.
  • Italy and Spain have had a similarly brutal outbreak of the coronavirus, and have the highest and second-highest death tolls in the world.
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Spanish citizens are being asked to donate their snorkeling masks to help sick coronavirus patients.

On Monday, police in Madrid put a call out for full-face snorkeling masks on Twitter.

Such masks can be attached to a ventilator with a 3D-printed valve, splitting a single ventilator between multiple patients.

It's a method that was developed by engineers in Italy, who have faced a similar shortage of ventilators due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to AFP . Italy and Spain are the two countries which, as of March 31, have the highest death tolls in the world from the virus.

Other countries have gone on to adopt the masks as well.

Frederic Bonnier, a respiratory physiotherapist at the Erasme Hospital in Brussels, helped design the valve to connect these masks to a BiPAP machine, a particular subset of ventilator.

A BiPAP machine is similar to a CPAP, the kind of ventilator which helps people with sleep apnea a condition that disrupts breathing during sleep.

Pressurized air is funneled into the mask, giving a patient more oxygen and preventing their lungs from collapsing.

This method was designed for people who have "severe respiratory problems."

The method is not used for the most serious cases, which woud require a different type of ventilator, a device that completely takes over breathing for a person whose lungs are not working.

Sports retailer Decathlon has stopped online sales of these full-face snorkel masks, and is donating their supply to hospitals in need, according to their Spanish and British websites.

As of Tuesday, Spain was the third hardest-hit country in the coronavirus outbreak, with more than 94,000 cases and 8,189 deaths.

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