As part of measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Ministry of Health has directed the general public to wear face masks at all public places where it may be difficult to maintain social distancing.
It implored the general public to wear masks or face coverings when going out whether sick or not but especially when attending to a sick person.
The Ministry has also provided invaluable guidelines on how to wear face masks to avoid contamination, infection, or transmission of the virus as incorrect use carries high risk of infection.
The directive has made the use of face mask mandatory for the following groups of persons, who are required at all times to wear them.
These groups include food vendors and sellers at markets, commercial vehicle drivers and attendants, commuters on public transports, persons in public and commercial centres.
Others are facilities and buildings including but not limited to offices, bars, workshops, restaurants, sports arenas and spas, saloons, shopping malls, churches, clinics and hospitals, and all other facilities accessible to the public whether privately or publicly owned.
Public Health Emergency
The Minister for Health, pursuant to section 169 of the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851) and by an Executive Instrument (E.I.61) declared COVID-19 a public health emergency.
Section 170 (1) of the Act provides that the Minister for Health may order an individual to take a preventive measure in respect of public health matters.
The Ministry of Health has therefore issued instructions on the use of a face mask to avoid infection and spread of the coronavirus as follows:
1. Procedures for wearing and removing a mask
a. Clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer before putting on a mask.
b. Ensure that your mask fully covers your mouth and nose with no gaps between your face and the mask.
c. Avoid touching the mask after you have won it.
d. Remove a mask by passing a finger through the loop of the mask behind one ear and lift off without touching the front of the mask-NEVER TOUCH THE FRONT OF THE MASK.
2. Changing and disposing of a mask
a. Do not use the mask for more than 12 hours at a time.
b. Replace the mask immediately it is damp or soiled.
e. When using a re-usable mask prepare a soapy or bleach lathered water and drop the mask directly into it on removing. Leave in the water for five (5) minutes before washing, rinse, dry, and iron before reuse.
d. Do not re-use single-use surgical masks more than twice or N95 masks more than three times.
e. Dispose all used masks in a closed bin or burn it in a safe place. Wash hands immediately with soap and water where available and apply alcohol-based sanitizer after disposal.
The directive warned of the importance of all masks to meet the minimum standards of safety.
The Ministry, therefore, recommends the use of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) approved masks. However, where unavailable, homemade masks made of the following materials or specifications may be used:
a. JAVA or WAX cloths sowed triple-layered and strung with side loops to be worn as hooks to the ear.
b. Calico inlaid with fabric stiffens and inner covered with side lops to be worn as hooks to the ear.
It warned against wearing homemade masks with strings to be tied behind the neck or head and stressed that adult mask should also not be worn by children.
Children, the directive stressed, should be provided with child-appropriate length masks.