LIFESTYLE NEWS - The colourful shweshwe face masks produced by the Isipho job creation project of Life Community Services are a great alternative for throw-away surgical masks. But, if you are going to use them, it is of utmost importance that you apply the correct usage as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO says masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water.
According to an article in The Lancet titled Rational use of face masks in the Covid-19 pandemic, people at very low risk of infection do not have to wear a mask or can wear a non-medical mask (such as a cloth mask).
The Lancet says there is not enough evidence to prove that wearing a surgical mask significantly reduces a healthy person's risk of becoming infected while wearing it. "... urgent research on the duration of protection of face masks, the measures to prolong life of disposable masks, and the invention on reusable masks should be encouraged."
According to WHO, wearing a mask in situations where it is not recommended to do so can create a false sense of security because it might lead to neglecting fundamental hygiene measures, such as proper hand hygiene.
The correct use of a mask as recommended by the WHO is as follows:
- Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
- Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask). Discard immediately in a closed bin and clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. We could not find recommendations on how to handle a cloth mask, but it would make good sense to immediately wash the mask thoroughly with soap and under running water.
Some peace of mind while doing essential shopping
Although the WHO says it is not necessary to wear a face mask if you are at low risk, many people would feel much more comfortable going out for their essential shopping if their nose and mouth are covered. With the huge shortage in masks worldwide, the Isipho women are sure to hit a big market out there and will hopefully be bringing in some much-needed funds for Life.
The insides of the masks are lined. Masks are available from Life's office at 122 Cradock Street at a cost of R55 each. Phone the office on 044 873 6601. Members of the public who wish to help this project can phone the same number. Donations of fabric and other materials used in the manufacturing of the masks are welcome.
• Isipho is the Xhosa word for "gift". The project first started as a means of teaching skills to previously unemployed adults in the community, as well as providing them with a sustainable income.
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