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Coming to terms with using face masks

PM Rugunda wearing a face mask

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | As the president’s directive for people moving in public to use face masks as a way of halting transmission of the coronavirus- COVID-19 sinks in, several people including health workers and administrators in health sector are finding a challenge to use them.

For instance, when the Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng was handing over cars donated by GAVI to hospital administrators to support immunization activities across the country, she could hardly hear them introduce themselves because of wearing masks until it was proposed that they remove them for the meantime and put them back immediately after speaking.

“Do you know what this shows?” Aceng asked. Adding that, “We are not used to having these masks on all the time but with practice we will perfect this.  We shouldn’t worry.”  The minister’s statement sent the audience of doctors, technocrats from the Health Ministry and UNICEF officials into prolonged laughter.

She was the only one who could be heard clearly as she spoke with her mask on throughout the event. Her colleague, Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwiine wore a white cloth mask that she spoke with but was hardly audible, a thing that triggered murmurs in the audience.

Many other officials were seen lifting their masks endlessly as they struggled to maintain protection throughout chit- chats with colleagues at an event held under the Tuesday afternoon scotching sun at Kololo Independence grounds.

Aceng encouraged the public to start familiarizing themselves with masks saying they will soon become mandatory especially in areas in the community where cases have been confirmed through the ongoing rapid assessment survey. She said even when using masks, people will continue with the hand hygiene.

In his directive, the president encouraged people to use fabric masks. Aceng re-echoed the same message citing concerns that people are seen on the streets wearing surgical masks which should be used only in hospital settings to keep infectious pathogens away and disposed of through incineration.

She warned the public from buying masks from the streets or markets, saying they have pre-qualified providers who have safe products.

However, wearing a mask of any kind protects an individual from a bit of exterior contamination though the percentage of protection varies with the kind of mask used where by the surgical mask offers more than 90% protection. Some cloth masks experts say provide only about 10% protection.

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