Face masks more effective when everybody wears — Dr Oliver-Commey

BY: Doreen Andoh
• Dr Oliver-Commey

In the global fight against the COVID-19, a number of safety protocols have been touted to be helpful in breaking transmission and effective for protecting oneself with strict adherence.

These protocols include frequent and thorough washing of hands with soap under clean running water, sanitising the hands with at least 70 per cent alcohol-based hand rub and the wearing of face mask.

Face mask

Adding to the wealth of knowledge on the importance of mask wearing, the acting Director of the Ghana Infectious Diseases Centre (GIDC), Dr Joseph Adjetey Oliver-Commey, said the face mask was helpful in breaking or stopping the transmission of COVID-19 because the disease spread through droplets infection from the mouth or nose.

However, he said, the face mask provided maximum protection only when everybody or majority of people were wearing it and wearing it right.

Dr Oliver-Commey said that was because the virus was transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person, generated through coughing and sneezing, talking and singing.

“Individuals can also be infected by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and touching their face — eyes, nose, and mouth. The COVID-19 virus may survive on surfaces for several hours, but simple disinfectants can kill it,” he said.

Also a member of the national COVID-19 management team, Dr Oliver-Commey explained that because COVID-19 was not airborne, the mask basically prevented the amount of infected droplets in the atmosphere, particularly on surfaces that could be picked with the hands and introduced to the body by touching the mouth, eyes or any part of the face.

“If all of us are wearing it right, we reduce everybody’s risk of being infected. If you are wearing and others close to you are not wearing, it reduces your safety and increases your risk. Especially because there are people with the condition but do not have any symptoms-asymptomatic cases,” he said.

Dr Oliver-Commey said if the entire public understood that and wore the face mask and complemented it with the other protocols, including keeping a safe distance of two metres from people all the time, the cases would go down drastically in a couple of weeks.

“You should wear a face mask even if you do not feel sick. This is because several studies have found that there are people with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who are not yet showing symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can still spread the virus to other people. Wearing a face mask helps protect those around you, in case you are infected but not showing symptoms,” he said.

Wear it right

Dr Oliver-Commey also stressed on the correct wearing of face masks which facilitated the desired results.

“Face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed off safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviours in order for them to be effective,” he said.

“Place your face mask over your mouth and nose. Don't touch the face mask while it is on, if you accidentally do, wash or sanitise your hands immediately,” he explained.

He said if the face mask became wet or dirty, “switch to a clean one. Put the used face mask in a plastic bag that can be sealed until you can wash it (in the case of reusable ones) or dispose of it in a closed bin.”

Dr Oliver-Commey said the face mask should also be removed without touching the front of the mask or the face, stressing “Wash your hands immediately after removing the face mask.”