To mask or not to mask – that is the question. Or it was.
The great debate of masking up, or not,
is pretty much resolved.
To mask or not to mask – that is the question. Or it was. The great debate of masking up, or not, is pretty much resolved. Recently, a group of public health and infection prevention doctors have called for the general public to wear homemade face masks. Their reasoning is that it does assist in reducing your risk in contracting the disease.
Weighing in on the debate
The Health Department of the Western Cape Government weighed in on the debate and has agreed that as this epidemic has unfolded, the wider use of masks for the general public are indicated, even for those who are not ill.
In one of his recent updates to the nation, Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, confirmed that wearing masks is one of the best ways of preventing the spread of infection. Research scientist, Jeremy Howard, has stated that studies have shown that the wearing of masks during a pandemic could potentially halt the growth of new Covid-19 cases. Other countries (the Czech Republic and Mongolia) who have made the wearing of masks mandatory, combined with social distancing, good hygiene and comprehensive testing, appear to have repressed the spread of the virus in their countries.
The Golden Rules of Good Hygiene
It is important to emphasize that wearing a mask is an addition, not a replacement for other health strategies in the effort to flatten the curve. The Golden Rules of Good Hygiene i.e. Staying home, physical/social distancing, regular 20-second or more handwashing, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into a tissue (and discarding it immediately) or into the corner of your arm, sanitising surfaces and widespread screening and testing, should be adhered to at all times and are key elements in preventative action.
Distinguish between masks
Frontline workers need to have the required N95 respirators and/or medical masks in order to protect themselves when they are doing their duties and helping to save lives. As there is a global shortage of these masks, please do not obtain these. There needs to be enough to supply the frontline healthcare workers in South Africa’s hospitals and clinics. While wearing a homemade mask is not as effective as a surgical mask, homemade masks can go a long way when it comes to protecting oneself and reducing the spread of the disease.
A cloth mask can:
- Reduce exposure when out in public places – supermarkets, banks, taxis, government buildings, public transport
- Reduce inhaling a large number of droplets, and reduces the transmission from someone sneezing or coughing
- Provide protection, but must be appropriately used and cleaned.
How to use a cloth facemask:
- Wash your hands before putting the facemask on, and wash your hands again after removing it;
- Refrain from touching your face
- Ensure the mask fits well. Try not to touch the cloth part.
- Wash masks with warm soapy water, and iron when dry
- If possible, have two masks per person, one in the wash and one ready to use
How to make a cloth facemask:
There are many videos on YouTube which demonstrate how to make a cloth mask.
Elmarie Taljaard from Meadowridge has provided YEI with these instructions on how to make your own face mask.
Click here to see the pattern and to watch the step by step videos.
Alternatively, watch this tutorial
and find out how to turn a scarf from your wardrobe into a face mask
The Western Cape Government approved cloth mask:
- Two layers – an inner layer and outer layer
If possible, an additional inner layer – a laminate breathable layer of non-woven fabric that can be washed at high temperatures, even a jacket lining inner.
- Material – preferably thick weave cotton e.g. denim, calico or upholstery cotton fabric that can be easily washed
Do not use stretchy material with a loose leave (e.g. t-shirt material) – these do not offer any protection.
Scientist have tested various household materials for homemade masks. Their findings are that a double layer of 100% cotton cloth is the most effective and is breathable.
Many South African seniors fall into the vulnerable group. YEI’s recommendation is that we all try and adopt the practice of wearing masks as one way of keeping safe and healthy.
The #masks4all movement advocate taking personal responsibility and making the masks ourselves. Their slogan is “I protect you, you protect me”. The movement already has the buy in of leading health and civil society organisations and is committed in helping to make alternative masks and protect the scarce healthcare resources.
We would like to suggest that seniors who can sew and have material at home help their family members and seniors in their community by making masks for them. The quicker every person in the nation can get a face mask, the quicker we can “flatten the curve”.
Sources and references:
World Health Organisation
NB: The WHO have a different opinion on the wearing of masks – please click on the link above for further information.
You’ve Earned It / YEI (https://youve-earned-it.co.za/),
the online retirement platform
for South African over-60s
Discounts, savings and benefits for baby boomers, seniors, pensioners and retirees
Informative and relevant articles geared at the senior market