Surgical masks are all the rage right now, thanks to the global pandemic that’s forced the country into a national lockdown.
Venture out of the house to stock up on essential supplies and you’ll see most people wearing them.
There is a great deal of debate as to whether or not you should wear a mask, who should wear a mask, and what kind of mask should be worn.
The recommended mask is the N95, which is a Centre for Disease Control-approved model worn when working with infectious patients. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get your hands on one of those, and regardless, they should be reserved for healthcare practitioners.
The Guardian also notes that a face mask is not an iron-clad guarantee that you’ll be protected from the virus, because there’s a chance it can be transmitted through the eyes, and via tiny particles called aerosols that can penetrate masks.
If you are likely to be in close contact with someone infected, a mask cuts the chance of the disease being passed on. If you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, or have been diagnosed, wearing a mask can also protect others. So masks are crucial for health and social care workers looking after patients and are also recommended for family members who need to care for someone who is ill – ideally both the patient and carer should have a mask.
Again, if you’re out and about stocking up on essential supplies, a mask does not offer 100% protection.
CNN reports that World Health Organization (WHO) officials said yesterday that they still recommend people not wear face masks unless they are sick with COVID-19 or caring for someone who is sick.
Read more on that here.
Our Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, tweeted the following last night:
So, if you are in close contact with someone who has the virus, or you’re showing symptoms, or you trust a study like this over what the WHO says, you may want to make a mask.
Here’s Good Housekeeping with some tips on the correct fabric to use:
The best fabric for homemade masks is a tightly woven, 100% cotton fabric. Things like denim, bed sheets, and heavyweight shirts are all good options. Avoid knit fabrics (e.g. jersey T-shirts) because they create holes when they stretch, which the virus could get through. Make sure to prewash fabrics using hot water to kill germs and to pre-shrink the material.
You’ll also need a non-woven filter fabric to help block out particles, and something like a paper clip to make it fit around the nose. If you have clothing or bedding at home that fits the criteria, you can use that instead of buying fabric (a non-essential item that you won’t be able to get anyway).
If all of that seems like too much effort, you can also buy a mask from local business, Ballo – for every mask they sell, they give one to somebody in need.
Forbes also goes into some incredibly important information about N95 and DIY masks, which you should read before you get sewing.
With that in mind, here’s how to make DIY masks:
Remember, a handmade mask is by no stretch of the imagination a foolproof form of protection. When wearing one the usual rules apply: wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, don’t touch your face, carry hand sanitiser, and when you remove the mask, do it using the straps.
Don’t touch the mask itself. Then give it a good wash in hot water before you use it again.
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