Stop using surgical and N95 masks and use cloth masks instead, says health ministry

28 April 2020 - 15:10 By Naledi Shange
Government says the use of surgical and N95 face masks is reserved for medics and health-care workers.
Government says the use of surgical and N95 face masks is reserved for medics and health-care workers.
Image: Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

Government has called for everyone to use face masks outside the confines of their homes, and has requested that members of the public stop using surgical masks and opt for cloth ones instead.

Dr Anban Pillay. acting director-general for national health insurance at the health department, said in a statement: “The public should not use surgical (medical) or N-95 respirator masks. Surgical masks and N-95 masks are critical supplies that must be reserved for health-care workers and other medical first responders. The public is strongly discouraged from using these masks.”

When announcing a relaxation of some lockdown measures last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed that from May 1, masks would be a requirement for all, even for those who are not ill.

“The main benefit of everyone wearing a face mask is to reduce the amount of coronavirus (or influenza virus) coughed up by those with the infection, thereby reducing its spread through droplets,” Pillay said.

“Since some people with the coronavirus may not have symptoms or may not know they are infected, everyone should wear a face mask.”

The health ministry stressed that the use of a mask did not erase the other proposed prevention strategies of regular handwashing and sanitising, social distancing, and using the elbow to greet or cough or sneeze into.

It stressed that community members should keep their face masks clean through regular washing.

The health ministry issued these guidelines for the use of a cloth mask.

  1. Only use a mask that has been washed and ironed.
  2. Wash your hands before putting on the mask.
  3. Place the mask with the correct side facing your face, and ensure it properly covers both your nose and mouth.
  4. Tie the strings behind your head. If you are using elastic bands, make sure these are tight.
  5. Make sure the mask fits well. Move it around to get the best fit. Never touch the cloth part.
  6. Once you have put on the mask, do not touch your face again until you take it off.
  7. When you take it off, undo the ties and carefully fold the mask inside out. Hold it by the strings/elastic and place the mask in a container reserved for washing the cloth mask.
  8. Wash your hands thoroughly and dry before doing anything else.
  9. Wash cloth masks with warm soapy water and iron when dry.
  10. You must have at least two cloth masks per person so you will be able to wash one and have a clean one ready for use.
  11. Masks should be washed with soap and hot water, rinsed thoroughly and ironed.