Face Masks: To wear or not to wear, that is the question

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Quick recap: CoviD 2019 is spread via respiratory droplets through the process of coughing, sneezing and talking. These droplets are propelled and may be present on surfaces that people come in contact with, most especially the hand if one used it to cover one’s cough. That is why hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds is one of, if not, the best ways to fight against the virus.

One of the ways you may contract the virus is by touching contaminated surfaces and subsequently touching your face (or anyone’s face for that matter), paving a way for the virus to enter the body through your eyes, nostrils and mouth. Thus handwashing is paramount no matter the time or event of the day most especially before and after touching objects.

I’m repeating handwashing again and again because we will be talking about masks.

LGU’s from all over the Philippines are working day in and day out to contain this threat within their designated cities.

Recently from the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental, Gov. Bong Lacson signed an EO requiring mandatory use of face masks when going out in public in Negros Occidental.

In the EO it stated that reusable face masks are encouraged and include any fabric, lining or barrier that can cover the nose and mouth of the wearer. (alternatives such as bandanas are allowed)

Violators will be punishable.

While the use of face masks has its benefits, again it is the least effective way to combat the disease.

Face masks are recommended to be worn by those who have the disease to avoid infecting other people. It is also worn by those who are taking care of a person with the disease. (READ: Blue or white side out? How to wear a surgical mask)

While there is a scarcity of face masks, initially due to hoarding and now because they’re being depleted on the frontlines it’s actually a great thing that the EO didn’t strictly specify to wear surgical face masks, as it will even dwindle down the resources needed by our healthcare professionals – they did mention that any sort of masks that can cover the face can be used, and only when going out in the public.

The enhanced community quarantine limits the people heading out to one per household, so problems regarding the face masks will hopefully be negligible at least.

The WHO has recently acknowledged that wearing masks may actually help people avoid touching their faces, contrary to previous reports that masks will indirectly cause people to touch their faces especially when adjusting it – although this is not entirely false as people may still do.

Globally, various countries have different recommendations for their public regarding masks.

China has specifically recommended the use of disposable medical masks by healthy members of the public.

Hong Kong recommends wearing a surgical mask when taking public transport or staying in crowded places.

Thailand’s health officials are encouraging people to make face masks at home out of cloth and wash them daily. The Czech Republic banned going out in public without wearing a mask or covering one’s nose and mouth. The Austrian government mandated that everyone entering a store must wear a face mask. Face masks have also been widely used in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore.

While I personally think this is a good directive and a great preventive measure against the spread of CoviD19, it is not a substitute to handwashing.

Also care must be taken since other countries had the funds to distribute face masks per household and our supplies are scarce.

While the government did say that it is okay to wear alternatives such as bandanas, it comes with its caveats – some fabrics don’t protect against the virus, although they do lessen the spread of respiratory droplets.

Again handwashing is paramount, and PPEs are currently lacking in our hospitals, so the general citizen is actually better off donating a box of face masks to their nearest health center then it being unused in their drawers.

Again handwashing is paramount to avoiding the disease. Do it as often as you can.

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