As confirmed cases of coronavirus continue to surge in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has said government might commence enforcement of wearing of face mask in public places from Monday.
He also said one million locally-made face masks had been contracted to tailors and would be distributed to the public.
However, experts say while wearing medical masks is one of the preventive measures that could limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including COVID-19, they are insufficient to protect wearers from infection.
According to the World Health Organisation, there is currently no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting can prevent them from getting infected with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
How face masks protect
In an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, Consultant Pathologist and President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Francis Faduyile, said the N-95 facemask gives up to 95 percent protection against COVID-19, while the surgical facemask gives up to 30 percent protection.
Fabric face masks — such as the type being recommended by the Lagos Governor — give about 10-15 percent of protection, the pathologist said.
“While it has not been established that face masks will give absolute protection, if we don’t have any other thing and they are saying they want to use face masks, then nobody can fault that.
“However, people should not have a false hope that when they put on the face masks, they are covered, as the percentage of safety is low,” Faduyile said.
“For the face masks to be effective, the wearer must know how to put it on and how to discard it and where to touch and where he cannot touch because if he touches the area he or she is not meant to touch, he or she can infect himself more than when he or she is not using the face mask,” the physician warned.
What WHO says
The World Health Organisation says whether or not masks are used, maximum compliance with hand hygiene and other infection prevention control measures are critical to prevent human-to-human transmission of COVID-19.