Protective masks and COVID-19: They are not necessary, but without them it is impossible to live

coronavirus covid-2019 Girl in mask on the street. Stop pandemic and panic

Photo: Stop Coronavirus, Wikipedia

 

Nobody was ready for that, but wearing a mask in public has become a daily occurrence for a huge number of citizens of our country after the global epidemic of COVID-19 appeared in this region. However, from the beginning, the topic of buying and using masks as a form of protection against the spread of the coronavirus is a topic of dilemma and discussion. The same situation prevails in the rest of the world affected by the pandemic.

 

Author: Jugoslava Dukovska

 

WHO:  MASKS ARE FOR DOCTORS AND NURSES, THE REST OF YOU – WASH YOUR HANDS!

It was the dilemmas that prompted the World Health Organization to call on the world community through an announcement on 30. March to limit the use of masks only to health workers in their workplaces, being are at high risk of becoming infected with the corona-virus, as well as to persons caring for COVID-19 patients. For the rest, according to WHO, the recommendations for hand washing, disinfection, personal hygiene and abstinence from contact are still valid.

    • If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.
    • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
    • Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
    • If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, Michael Ryan, said that improper wearing of face masks could do more harm than good to fight the spread of the virus. Ryan reiterated the WHO believes masks should be worn only by people who are ill, so as not to spread the virus, as well as by health workers.

There is no concrete evidence that mass wearing of masks would bring any benefit, in fact, there is some evidence to the contrary. There is also a global shortage of masks and other medical supplies. Right now the people most at risk from this virus are frontline healthworkers who are exposed to the virus “every second of every day”. The thought they do not have a mask is terrible, said Ryan.

 

THE MASKS DISAPPEARED FROM PHARMACIES, AND THE RECOMMENDATIONS ON WEARING MASKS REMAINED

The first indications for the spread of the corona in the region almost immediately emptied the Macedonian pharmacies of the stock of surgical masks, but raised the price tenfold of the remaining ones. Soon after, official recommendations were issued for citizens to wear masks on public places, such as that of the City of Skopje:

The City of Skopje recommends the users of the public bus transport use personal protective equipment – masks and gloves. This recommendation is in line with measures to protect the health of citizens from the spread of the corona virus.

Many medical facilities have asked patients and their companions to wear masks and gloves when entering clinics. Messages and promotional videos also appeared from supermarket chains, such as Tinex:

Protect yourself and others; be sure to wear a face mask and medical gloves with every purchase. That way you will limit touching the products, money or other items with your hands.

Avoid touching your face, mouth and eyes until you have thoroughly disinfected your hands with a thorough wash with soap or disinfectant gel.

Emergency measures and psychosis, which inevitably appeared with the increase in the number of people suffering from coronavirus in Macedonia, according to a Macedonian folk saying that sounds something like this: “Fear keeps the vineyard safe!”, contributed to the high number of people wearing masks, and it is obvious that people wear what they could find – from ordinary, surgical, through nano-masks N94 and N95, which filter over 90% of all particles through their filters, but are difficult to find, to home-made and decorated colorful cotton masks, made with the help of YouTube tutorials.

 

IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC AND AUSTRIA WEARING MASKS IS OBLIGATORY, WHILE BULGARIA RECALLED THIS OBLIGATION  

Wearing masks in public in some countries was a habit and a social gesture long before the appearance of the COVID-19. In Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, wearing masks has become a cultural norm and even a fashion for the past decade, so Hello Kitty masks have been one of the most sought-after fashion accessories in Hong Kong’s street markets, writes the BBC.

This is not surprising because in that part of Asia over the past decade there have been occasional outbreaks of viruses with respiratory manifestations even before the corona-virus, such as bird and swine flu, SARS and MERS. Wearing a mask in those countries has become a habit because people think it makes them safer, but also more attentive to others. The general attitude behind this habit is that anyone can be a carrier of the disease, even without obvious symptoms, so in the spirit of solidarity, you need to protect the people around you. But even before the outbreak of the epidemic, coughing and sneezing in Asia were considered rude.

On the other side of the world, amid a global debate over protective masks and crowns, Austria has announced that it will join the small number of European countries where wearing face masks is a must, the Financial Times reported. On Monday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that authorities would begin distributing millions of protective masks to supermarkets this week and customers would be able to enter stores that are still open only if they wear a mask.

According to Financial Times, Austria, along with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina, are currently the only European countries where such an obligation for citizens is in force (Note: North Macedonia also adopted this measure in the meantime). On the other hand, Bulgarian Minister of Health Kiril Ananiev announced Bulgaria was recalling the obligation of wearing protective masks in public due to a lack of public consensus, but the recommendation to wear one, remains.

The spokesman for the German Ministry of Health, Hanno Kautz, said the German government could consider making the mask mandatory when it would start thinking of easing mandatory isolation measures that are now in force in the country. France, meanwhile, initially advised its citizens not to wear masks, but now advises them to wear masks if they are infected with corona or work in healthcare facilities or trade, citing the need to preserve small stocks of masks for hospitals.

In Italy, where the number of infected and deceased from the corona-virus is high, until just a month ago, appearing in public with a face mask would have sparked outrage, and wearing a mask now has become mandatory.

The protective mask can be worn for a maximum of three hours. After that time, it becomes wet, and when it is wet, it is both contagious and ineffective for protection, explains the famous Slovenian epidemiologist Dr. Andrej Trampuz.

 

MACEDONIA FOLLOWS THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF WHO ON WEARING MASKS

For the time being, Macedonia is following the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) on wearing protective masks. On the Government’s website, in the section called Measures and recommendations for protection and prevention of COVID-19, there are recommendations for frequent washing of hands with soap and water, use of disinfectants, covering the face with a handkerchief when coughing and sneezing, as well as practising social distance, but there is no mention of the use of protective masks as an obligation or recommendation.

According to this, Macedonia follows the guidelines given by WHO, according to which masks are needed for health professionals.

We have a large reserve of protective masks within the Ministry of Health. We have over 20,000 protective masks, which are a reserve for public health institutions, said Minister of Health Venko Filipče at a press conference in the Government on 24 March.

Renowned cardiac surgeon, Zan Mitrev, instead of masks, recommended covering the face with a scarf or shawl in public, while epidemiologist Dr Dragan Danailovski recommended that face masks be worn by those infected with the virus so that they do not expand the disease. It is unnecessary for people who are not sick to wear protective masks, says Dr Danailovski.

 

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