COVID-19: It is not over, until it is over-Wear Face Mask
By Harold Thomas
November 23rd to 30th, 2020 has been set aside for Africa Mask Week. Africa CDC, the African Union Office of the Youth Envoy, the African Youth Front on Coronavirus, Resolve to Save Lives, and Pandemic Action Network are joining force together to launch Africa Mask Week to inspire people to rally behind the significance of wearing a mask to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Regardless of COVID-19’s unrelenting spread in Africa, current statistics suggest that mask-wearing is diminishing. It is important in some ways to note that more people should at this time wear masks and endure mask-wearing long-term to halt the spread of the virus. Until there exist safe vaccines to fight COVID-19, the proper use of mask is perhaps the finest tool we have at hand, particularly when used in conjunction with physical or safe distancing, early health seeking behavior, cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene.
During the period of the Africa Mask Week, people and businesses are encouraged to rally behind the significance of wearing a mask or face covering appropriately, not only during the week, but every day until a suitable vaccine that prevents infection is freely available to all everybody. The proper use of masks is a crucial element of Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) process in all settings. Strict observance to the usage of masks in public spaces particularly, where physical or safe distancing may not be practical, can help curb the spread of the virus. We have to protect ourselves and those around us.
Nonetheless, the fight is still furious and the battle far away from over. Therefore, the reopening of offices, businesses and schools and other institutions, more than ever, requires extreme thoughtfulness and co-operative responsibility.
Obviously and evidently, a tight spot presents itself here – protecting lives and livelihoods. Every decision taken will have its own concerns which is human lives.
The move by the government is commendable. The measures on the use of Face mask has scientifically established to be very effective. Like other public health measures that Sierra Leone has taken during this pandemic, the mandatory use of face masks or face covering with at least two layers of protection for those who come out in public places in addition to other precautionary measures is thought to have radically decelerated the rate of infections in the country
Undeniably, the face mask is an added measure to physical or safe distancing we normally call social distancing. The spirit behind the mask centres on awareness of protecting oneself and others around us. Self-protection which is a survival tactics is the name of the game. Studies have revealed that a person with COVID-19 without a face mask has a very high likelihood of infecting the unprotected people around. The chance reduces to the barest minimum with face mask or face covering on the carrier alone. In the event wherein both carrier and the public use face masks, the likelihood of transmission is far minimal. Because virus-carrying droplets that frequently emit when we talk, shout, sing, sneeze and cough are freely shielded or cupped in the mask to preclude transmission to others. This science has made the Government to mandate the use of face masks and coverings with at least two layers of protection, with no exemption. For that reason, it will be more than negligent for anyone not to wear a mask in public places and put others and oneself in jeopardy. This in other words mean better stay at home than outside unmasked.
All public officials should endeavour to put on a face mask in public. When that happens, then and only then would we fully have the moral ground to enforce compliance.
Everybody in Sierra Leone, including the unbelieving Thomases and those continue to live in self-denial, should bear in mind that we still have on our hand a pandemic to grapple with.
Consequently, the rule of open-minded self-interest and safety should apply to all.
As I conclude this piece, my advice is: Wear face mask, maintain hand hygiene, physical or safe distancing, and practice early health seeking behaviour. My guidance is that these are uncommon times and safety comes first to strike a fine balance between livelihoods and maintainable public health. Mutual understanding on hygiene and the law of self-protection already acclaim the judgement on compulsory wearing of face masks in public spaces. We should always bear in mind that life is boundless in its potentials while death is ultimate in its inevitability. The mandatory use of face mask is just what we need and merits approval by all and sundry to protect lives and livelihoods. We need to stay alive first before we can appreciate life after COVID-19. The fact is that COVID still lingers with us.