The COVID-19 Pandemic continues to advance with community transmission well under way in Kenya.
Greater self-awareness and care are increasingly required when stepping out into public spaces. The WHO has provided guidance on the importance of wearing masks or face coverings in community transmission settings as part of a comprehensive approach to suppress COVID-19 transmission. In Kenya, the Government has mandated use of face masks in public spaces though a legal notice.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to observe situations where persons in public spaces do not wear or handle masks appropriately. The use of masks can provide a sense of ‘false confidence’ when interacting with others in the streets, supermarkets, and other public spaces. It is also important to remember that mask usage alone cannot replace critical public health measures such as:
- Hand hygiene: Perform hand hygiene frequently with alcohol-based hand rub (minimum 60% alcohol) for at least 20 seconds, or with soap and water for at least 40 seconds. Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.
- Physical distancing: Avoid close physical contact with others, including shaking hands and hugging. Maintain physical distance of at least 2m between yourself and others.
- Respiratory hygiene (cough etiquette): Cover your nose and mouth with a bent elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of the tissue immediately after use and perform hand hygiene.
When one mishandles a mask of any kind, they pre-dispose themselves to contamination and possible COVID-19 infection. Prudent management of masks requires that you do the following:
- Inspect the mask before use for any tears or holes, do not use the mask if damaged.
- Tie the mask securely and adjust it to provide complete coverage to the mouth, nose and chin, leaving no gaps on the sides.
- Avoid touching the mask while wearing it.
- Change the masks whenever it becomes dirty or moist.
- Clean your hands before removing the mask.
- Remove the mask using the appropriate technique i.e. do not touch the front of the mask but untie or loosen it from behind.
- Clean hands again after removing the mask.
- Do not re-use single-use masks. Discard the single-use masks after each use and dispose of them immediately upon removal.
- Cloth face coverings should be washed frequently and handled carefully and similarly changed if soiled or wet.
- Cloth face coverings should be completely dry after washing before using them.
The following video from WHO summarizes the important steps in appropriate use of masks.