This week government announced a number of measures that will be taken to ease the lockdown which has now lasted more than a month.
Among the measures mentioned is the mandatory wearing of facemasks while in public. While a lot has been said on the type of masks to be worn, with government determined to make one for every Ugandan courtesy of Nyanza Textile Industries Limited (Nytil) and other companies that might be contracted for the job, little has been said on how to properly use these masks and yet this is important for them to be of any real use.
World Health Organisation advises that before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water, cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask, avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water, replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
These precautions, obvious as they seem to be, will undoubtedly go unheeded by majority of Ugandans and the reason for wearing the masks in the first place will be defeated. Even before the President in his most recent Covid-19 update announced that free masks would be availed, many Ugandans had taken to either making their own or buying already made masks.
Unfortunately, many were wearing them the wrong way. Many could be seen wearing their masks just below their noses. This, however trivial it might seem, points to the need to continually demonstrate the proper way to wear and handle face masks. What point is there to distribute the right kind of masks only for them to be worn or handled wrongly?
That notwithstanding, it would be foolhardy to assume that the facemask is all that we now need to deter the novel coronavirus. Without other guidelines being followed such as the recommended four metre social distancing, frequent handwashing with soap and clean running water or use of an alcohol-based sanitiser, all our efforts to deter the spread of the virus will go down the drain.
As the easing of the lockdown that seems to be heavily reliant wearing of masks by all citizens, continuous grassroot sensitisation on all the preventive health guidelines and behavioural change is key.
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