Will a face mask prevent COVID-19 infection?

Answer: 

Finally! The debate over the preventative properties of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has finally come to an end.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that face masks are effective in protecting its wearer against airborne droplets, but emphasised that only a certain type of mask - the N95 respirator - offers proper filtration of airborne particles. 

South Africa's health minister, Zweli Mkhize, then released a statement saying that "there is sufficient scientific evidence to show that the cloth face mask significantly reduces the amount of virus that can be emitted."  

He went on to say that N95 masks and surgical masks are reserved for healthcare workers who work with COVID-19 patients, and recommended that cloth face-masks should be used by the general population to prevent future shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the medical field. 

Follow these guidelines on proper mask usage to minimise your risk of infection:

  • The mask must cover the nose and mouth completely.
  • Masks should not be lowered when speaking, coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks should never be touched except during application and removal.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching the mask
  • Cloth masks should be washed with warm soapy water and ironed once dry. 
  • Change your cloth face mask if it is wet or visibly soiled
  • Ensure that you own at least 2 masks to ensure that one is available while the other is being washed.

Note that wearing a mask in no way guarantees the wearer's safety against the virus - it should be used in conjunction with proper handwashing techniques and social distancing to ensure maximum precaution.

Should you or someone you know begin to show symptoms of COVID-19 or suspect that you may be infected, contact the National Crisis Line - 0861 322 322 or one of the other essential contact numbers for advice on what to do next.

Read more: What is the difference between a surgical mask, an N95 respirator, and a cloth mask? 

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