Coronavirus: Can a mask protect you from the virus?

By Irene Kalulu

Surgical masks and latex gloves cannot protect one against being infected with Coronavirus (COVID 19), if not used properly, medical experts have said.

People are using the masks and gloves without proper knowledge and this can lead to one exposing themselves to the virus.

A survey conducted by CITE in Kwekwe showed that many people have resorted to wearing surgical masks and latex gloves in public to prevent themselves from contracting the deadly virus.

So far no case has been reported in Kwekwe although Zimbabwe has recorded eight confirmed cases and one death.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa last Friday announced a 21-day national lockdown to combat the rapid spread of the pandemic in the country.

Speaking to CITE in separate interviews, Kwekwe residents said they had no adequate knowledge on how to use the personal protective equipment.

“When I reach a place where there are a lot of people that is when I put on my mask. For example, when boarding a commuter omnibus, but when I’m in a place I feel safe I just take it off then put it on again when I feel the need,” said Tatenda Mabhena.

“I’m scared of getting infected so I bought a mask to use when I get into town where there are too many people. I was told I can use it for three days,” said Milton Takaendesa who runs a vegetable market in town.

Contacted for a comment, former Health minister, Doctor Henry Madzorera urged those who use protective equipment to use them properly.

“We have not yet quantified how useful masks are for every other person to wear but if you can lay your hands on a mask use it and if you use it properly there is no harm. The problem comes when people use the masks more than once or during the course of a day touch the inside of the mask thereby contaminating it. People end up making mistakes and touching their face or some other part of their body and that becomes a problem because you can infect yourself,” Dr Madzorera pointed out.

Surgical masks are not reusable and have to be disposed of as soon as they get damp.

A survey conducted by this publication showed that the masks range from US50c to US$6. 

Unfortunately, people who are opting for protective masks and latex gloves are neglecting other protective measures such as washing of hands.

Health professionals have recommended that people should wash their hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds.

The use of appropriate hand sanitizers has also been recommended.

For health workers, Dr Madzorera said that certain type of masks like the N95 mask work sufficiently.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) health workers worldwide will need at least 89 million masks every month to treat COVID-19 cases.

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