Cloth facemasks are less protective against COVID-19 – Health Experts


As the world keeps exploring ways to keep the covid-19 infection under control, some health experts have argued that cloth masks are less protective against the coronavirus, especially the delta variant.

On September 6, this year some of the largest European Airlines: Lufthansa, Air France, and Finnair have banned the use of cloth face masks on their flights, saying that cloth masks do not provide adequate protection for passengers.

Lufthansa in a statement issued said cloth masks are not permitted on board or in lounges and it is compulsory for all to wear a medical mask from boarding, when on board, and when disembarking the flight.

But, Dr. Joseph Oliver-Commey, an Infectious Disease Specialist at the Ghana Infectious Disease Centre, says, the efficiency of cloth masks in protecting people against the Coronavirus is lowered when used in crowded areas.

He told the Ghana News Agency that generally, all masks were protective against Coronavirus because they formed a barrier to infections when the mucous membranes, nose, and mouth were covered but the cloth masks, were less effective.

There are many types of masks and they serve the same purpose at different times…,” he said and recommended the use of medical masks for workplaces because, “usually in the office, people are close and indoors.”

Most workplaces use air conditioners, which may be circulating the same air so medical masks are advised for those who work with COVID-19 infected people, and N95 masks are also recommended, he said.

The Infectious Disease Specialist said the key to protecting oneself no matter the strain of the virus was to practice the barriers, stressing,

He encouraged people to avoid crowded places or use a face covering to cover the mucous membranes, nose, and mouth, wash off any viruses on their hands that they might have picked up along the way while interacting with people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that people look out for filtration, breathability, and fit when choosing a fabric mask.
It said cloth masks should be held in a place comfortably with little adjustment using elastic bands or ties.

“There are different mask shapes such as flat-fold or duckbill – find the one that fits closely over your nose, cheeks, and chin,” it said.

The WHO said when the edges of the mask are not close to the face and shift, when speaking, air penetrates through the edges of the mask rather than being filtered through the fabric.

The Organization says masks with vents or exhalation valves are not advised because they allow the unfiltered breath to escape the mask.

According to the WHO, cloth masks should be made of three layers of fabric- the inner layer of absorbent material, such as cotton, the middle layer of non-woven non-absorbent material, such as polypropylene, and an outer layer of non-absorbent material, such as polyester or polyester blend.

Meanwhile, a section of the public who spoke to the GNA on their choices of nose masks said they preferred the use of a surgical mask to a cloth mask.

Mr. Godwill Oboubi, a Photographer said he preferred a surgical mask, because it was more comfortable, easily assessable, and looked nice on any outfit.

“It is easy to breathe when you have a surgical mask on and it offers you high protection as compared to the cloth mask, Julius Aggrey, a national service personnel said.

Ms. Alice Ankoh a caterer also said she would prefer a surgical mask because they were cheaper now and more protective but the cloth mask was old fashioned and looked like a shoulder pad on the face.

The GNA, however, observed that the use of a cloth mask was high among traders and street hawkers, some of them who spoke to the GNA said they preferred to use the cloth mask because it was reusable and economical for them.

Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist, and a Director of the University of Minnesota Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reportedly said most masks were ineffective.

He explained that people who wore a cloth mask during a wildfire, were still able to smell the burning flames, exposing the flaws of a cloth mask.

I think, if you’re going to consider wearing a mask, the quality of the mask does matter. So if you can get your hands on a KN95 mask or an N95 mask, that’s going to afford you a lot more protection, he said.

Data from the Ghana Health Service as at October 4 indicates that Ghana has since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, recorded a total of 127,482 confirmed cases, 1,156 deaths, and 123,238 recoveries.

Facemasks are protective devices covering a part of the face. They are designed to protect both the person who wears them and the immediate environment from breathable pollutants, respiratory poisons, or bacterial/viral pathogenic organisms.

Epidemiologists emphasize that wearing appropriate facemasks will effectively interrupt airborne infections in the community and stop the spread of COVID-19.

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