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COVID-19: The imperative of face mask

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Against the backdrop of the ravaging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the directive by the Federal Government making the wearing of face mask compulsory across the country is absolutely right. Nigerians must, as a matter of necessity, wear a face mask to protect themselves and others since it is globally recognised and approved as a strategy for curbing the spread of the virus.

There are no two ways about it. Nobody should wait to be forced to wear a face mask, especially, now that community transmission of the disease is rife. The rules and guidelines are there for people to follow and protect themselves from the deadly virus that has taken a toll on economic and social life around the entire world.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Richard Adeniyi Adebayo, who disclosed the Federal Governments’ directive at a weekly engagement with Emergency Operation Centre of the Committee on Sustainable Production/Delivery of Essential Commodities during covid-19, stated that while there is an undeniable need for markets to be opened on some days for people to restock on household supplies, it is most important for the set protocol to be complied with during the process. The use of face masks and hand sanitisers on market days are non-negotiable to limit the spread of the virus until the scourge blows over,” he stressed.

Similarly, the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, has instructed that all users of markets in the FCT must wear a face mask and also observe physical distancing.

To this end, the minister mandated the Abuja Market Management Limited (AMML) boss to ensure that existing selling points for food items within the markets are decentralized immediately to achieve physical distancing, even as he encouraged the market managers to continue to sensitise clients on other hand and respiratory hygiene practices.

Bello approved what he called “Neighbourhood Selling Points” as part of measures to decongest existing markets and effect more compliance with physical distancing in the wake of the outbreak of covid-19.

While urging FCT residents to abide by all emergency regulations in respect of the Coronavirus, the minister said patronising the neighbourhood markets would help to strengthen the administration’s response plan.
To ensure compliance, Malam Bello directed law enforcement agencies to “clamp down on residents who hide under the window of market days to flout government directives”.  

The reality of coronavirus is no more in doubt; everyone knows that a deadly invisible enemy is lurking around. For millions of people around the world, covid-19 pandemic is the greatest challenge they have ever faced in their lifetime.

Experts say the use of face masks by the public, together with social distancing and hand washing, prevent the transmission of coronavirus and save lives. Countries in the developed economies – USA, France, UK, Austria, Singapore, etc, are joined together in advising the public to use face mask. And, the people comply accordingly.

Covid-19 reportedly is spread from aerosols (tiny viral particles). We breathe in aerosols in crowded places like trains, buses and markets, and we touch our face inadvertently, numerous times with potentially infected hands. Masks protect against all this and will be even more crucial when the lockdown is eased to prevent a resurgence of cases.

According to Dr. Beng Gohm, Emeritus consultant physician, Royal London Hospital, the argument against mask use is incoherent. We can teach the public how to use masks properly, and ask people to use cloth masks until more medical masks are available to ensure enough supplies. Government has a duty to protect lives by a comprehensive strategy of physical distancing, hand washing, mask-wearing and protecting the vulnerable.

With all this information, nobody should wait to be coerced to wear face mask and observe all the rules, including frequent washing of hands and physical distancing. Granted that there may still be those doubting the existence of the coronavirus, truth is that such people are doing so at their own risk.

Fortunately, the initial fear that there won’t be enough face masks to go round has been overcome with the ingenuity of Nigerians. Tailors are now making improvised face masks that Nigerians are buying at affordable price. With between N50 and N100, depending on the location, one could get a locally made face mask. With this development, nobody has an excuse anymore not to wear face mask in public places.

But it is baffling that since the lockdown was eased, so many people have refused to wear face mask. The preponderance of this in Abuja and Lagos shortly after the lockdown was eased raises the question of the penchant of some Nigerians to disobey the law, due to ignorance.

Some people want to be arrested by law enforcement officers and punished before they would wear facemask. Perhaps, the plan of government to prosecute defaulters should be implemented on some people to serve as deterrent to others. But doing that merely shows the low state of mind of some people.

People must wear face mask. Nobody should be compelled by law enforcement officials to do what would save their lives and that of others. There is no doubt that the law enforcement officers are overwhelmed with the situation; which rests the onus on individuals to draw the attention of those flouting the law for public health interest. Everything should not be left to the police and other law enforcement officers.
Having said that, it is important to also sensitise the public on the mode of wearing the face mask. The mask should cover the mouth and nose. The essence is to prevent fluid from one person from getting to another. The face mask protects the other person.

Finally, the face mask should not be worn for too long at a go. One should release to get fresh air to prevent hypoxia (lack of adequate oxygen) in the body. Nobody should see the wearing of face mask as a joke. Instead, it should be seen as a matter of life and death, which should be taken seriously.


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