Following the President’s directive on compulsory wearing of face masks by individuals when in public in order to protect themselves from contracting the COVID-19 transmitting pathogens; as first aired on the 4th of May, and more emphasized in the recent address on the 18th of May, 2020.
In a press release, the Ministry of Health has given a comprehensive and scientific explanation on the masks and guidelines on their proper use.
The types of face masks on the Ugandan market:
There are two types of masks on the Ugandan market; Medical and Non- Medical. Medical masks are the ones that include N95, KN95 and surgical masks and are to be reserved for the health workers whereas the Non-Medical masks are those made of cloth. In the case of the medical masks, they are not reusable and have to be dumped immediately after use due to exposure to contaminated environments in medical laboratories.
On How face masks work:
Keeping in mind that the virus is spread through getting in contact with droplets of some who’s infected breath, or environment or touching surfaces where a person infected with the virus has touched. What the does is that it prevents the germs from reaching a person’s nose and mouth while wearing one.
The type of masks recommended for used by the community:
The community is encouraged to use non-medical masks (masks made out of fabrics e.g. cotton masks. A 2 layered cotton masks with a filter material e.g. paper towel or coffee filter or polypropylene (the material often used for non-plastic shopping bags placed between the 2 layers may improve the mask). This material acts as a filter and can be removed before washing. Polypropylene is washable and reusable.
How protective are cloth and other face masks?
When a double cloth mask is used with a filter inside, its protectiveness over 95%. (Report from CDC)
Who should wear a mask?
• All adults
• Children aged 6 years and above, People with breathing difficulties should seek advice from medical personnel. Children aged 2-6years are very active and cannot take care of their masks and observe hygiene. They should only put on masks under close supervision. Children below 2 years should not wear a mask as they have a small lung capacity.
Guidelines for the use of Masks
When should one wear a mask?
When going to public places – e.g. work, public transport, markets, supermarkets, shops, classrooms, places of worship, healthcare facilities etc.
• When acceptable social distancing is not possible
• When one has a cough, cold or sore throat even when at home
• When at home and visited by a person who is not part of the household
• When in any congested area
• At work places, especially when with colleagues
• Do NOT wear a mask when running, jogging, or doing other physical activities
• It is not necessary to wear a mask when you are alone in the car but have it ready in case of another passenger or when you step out.
Does one still need to stay at least 2 meters away from people when wearing a mask?
• Yes, because infection can still go through your eyes and touching other surfaces.
How should one put on the mask?
• To put on the mask, hold onto the straps or loops and place it over the nose and mouth all the way to the chin.
• Avoid touching the front and inner sides of the mask
• The mask should be kept on even when talking
• In case of need to remove the mask like for eating or drinking, the mask should be removed completely by holding on to the straps and folded with the inner side in and placed in a clean container such as an envelope. It may also be hanged on nails, hooks etc., in such a way that it does not touch any surfaces.
• Wash hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer whenever one touches the front or inside of the mask
Does the use of mask remove the need for other precautions against COVID-19?
The masks only complement and does not remove other precautions:
• Maintain periodic hand hygiene (washing with soap
and water or hand sanitizer
• Maintain a social distance of at least 2 meters
• Avoid touching the mouth, eyes and the nose
How should one care for the mask?
• Ensure the mask covers the nose, mouth and chin when wearing it.
• Keep the mask hanged in a clean area or in a clean envelope/container when not wearing it
• Wash and dry re-useable fabric (cotton) mask daily.
• Remove the filter before washing the mask.
• If the filter is washable (e.g. polypropylene) wash and dry it separately.
What care precautions should be taken when handling another person’s mask?
• Handle with the knowledge that other people’s masks are potentially infectious
• Observe hand hygiene after handling masks
• Ensure that the mask does not come into contact with one’s mouth, eyes or nose
Can wearing a mask and repeated use of sanitizer interfere with one’s immunity?
No. Masks and sanitizers reduce the load of the undesirable germs but do not interfere with the Immunity
Should air conditioning be used in cars, offices, places of worship etc during this time of COVID-19?
• It is not advisable to use air conditioning
• A well-ventilated place with free air circulation is advised.
Specifications for homemade masks
• Preferably100% cotton
• Double layered with a pouch for a filter which may be polypropylene, tissue or toilet paper
• It should be wide enough to cover the nose, mouth and the chin
• The loops should not be too tight for comfort
Where to buy:
Ministry of Health has provided specifications for the fabric masks to the general public. These specifications should be observed when one is buying a home-made or factory-made mask. Masks on sale should be sealed in a transparent polyethene to avoid contamination and repeated trying on.
• Wash and iron fabric masks before use.
Disposal of used masks:
Fabric masks can be re-used as they are washable.
They can be used as long as the fabric is not worn out,
develops holes or is so thin that light can be seen through it.
• When the above happens, dispose by burning or throwing in a pit latrine
• Do NOT share masks even with close family members.
Do NOT pick medical masks that have been disposed
• Do NOT re-use medical masks
• Do NOT borrow masks
• Do NOT buy medical masks from the streets.
Will one be penalized for NOT wearing a mask?
• Yes. Wearing masks is mandatory in Uganda as per the Presidential Directive and the Statutory Instrument. You will be denied access to ANY public facilities without a MASK.
For more information, call the Ministry of Health toll free line on:
919, 0800 100066, 0800 303033 & 0800203033 or send a free SMS to report on 8500 or WhatsApp on 0770818139