Coronavirus: Are we covered with a face mask?

Published by Oke Umurhohwo on

Babajide Sanwo-Olu

The lockdown has been relaxed and in the next few days, if you’re not already, you will be outside trying to make ends meet or for any other purpose. Though the problem of coronavirus is yet to be resolved, the impacts of continued lockdown in a fragile economy as Nigeria cannot be easily ignored by the government. It should not have come to this early but hues of hunger as the government seems incapable of providing relief for the population, making the decision of lifting lockdown partially inevitable. But that doesn’t mean going outside to source for livelihoods is without threat, but that can be mitigated, or even persuading, stopped.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu

You’ll be wondering how, but that shouldn’t be too hard to realize. Just like Nigeria, most countries are also easing restrictions, and to limit the likelihood of infections, people are now using face masks whenever they go out. While relaxing lockdown, Nigeria government impressed on citizens to use face masks whenever they are going out, and, in some states, going outside without putting a mask will attract punishment. But there are still questions as to how much protection can a mask confer on users and whether the public can use what was supposed to be reserved for health workers.

 

Looking at the prevailing reality, it is not a bad idea if face masks are made available for public use, but doing that will mean we have to make enough masks that those in the frontline will not be affected. As for shielding users from infection, that question has long been answered by many studies that let us know that widespread mask-wearing might be very effective in mitigating the risk of having coronavirus when complemented with good personal hygiene and other precautionary measures.

 

Countries in Asia have for some time now adopted the practice of wearing masks in public and that has shown to be very helpful in slowing down the spread of the disease. Long before officials in the US and media noticed the prospect of masks, health officials in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan had suggested that people who wear masks reduce risk to infections, especially when they are in a crowded place or places not well ventilated. When you put on a face mask, you shield yourself, to a greater length, from droplets of the virus finding its way past your nose or mouth into your system. And that seems to be working if you take into consideration places like Hong Kong, which though, shared proximity to China, where the virus originated from, still saw fewer cases when the virus was on the rampage in the region even though it didn’t implement draconian measures as seen in most Asian countries.

 

Sharing insight on how much wearing face masks has helped the country is slowing down the virus, Ivan Hung, an infectious diseases specialist at the Hong Kong University School of Medicine, told CNN that “if you look at the data in Hong Kong, wearing a mask is probably the most important thing in terms of infection control.” Speaking further, he noted that using masks “not only brings down the cases of coronaviruses, it also brings down influenza,” adding that “In fact, this is now the influenza season, and we hardly see any influenza cases. And that is because the masks protected not only against coronaviruses but also against the influenza viruses as well.”

 

That shows that masks can keep us covered as we move about our day-to-day activities amid coronavirus scare until a vaccine or cure for the disease is developed. It is something everyone must ensure they use when outside their homes, as apart from giving them some form of protection against the virus, it can also stop unwitting transmission. Carrier of the disease as we have been made aware can sometimes be asymptomatic, yet they can infect dozens of people unknowingly. But when everyone uses masks, that threat is greatly reduced, and this was corroborated by a finding of a Nobel prize-winning virologist, Harold Varmus, that placing a layer of cloth in front of a person’s face stops 99% of the droplets.

 

So, we’re clear that using masks can protect us and also slowdown rates of infections. When you go out, you should always ensure that your mask is on you and don’t forget to take other necessary precautions to keep you entirely safe. There is no certain time when vaccine or cure for coronavirus will be available but while we’re waiting, we can protect ourselves as we struggle for survival and mask is that one thing you desperately need.

Written by Oke Umurhohwo, a Political Analyst and Strategist. He tweets via @OkeStalyf and can be reached via oke.umu@gmail.com


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