Wearing a face mask when going out of the house to buy groceries or medicines, along with other important measures — such as physical distancing, hand washing frequently for a minimum of 20 seconds or using a hand sanitiser with at least 60 per cent alcohol — are important steps to protect against COVID-19, said a top health official.
Dr Hend Al Awadhi, head of health promotion and education section at DHA’s Public Health Protection Department, said, “In public places, wearing a mask reduces the spread of the virus and helps people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. However, it is necessary to know how to wear and dispose of the mask correctly to prevent contamination. Furthermore, single-use masks should never be reused.
“The mask should cover your entire nose and mouth, which means that the face mask should fit underneath your chin. Adjust your mask with sanitised hands in your car and not in the grocery store, which has other people shopping there as well. Do not take the mask off to speak to anyone at the store as that reduces its effectiveness and touching the front of the mask directly puts you at a risk of contaminating it.
“I think it’s extremely important for the public to understand how to use face masks, how to wear them, how to prevent infecting the mask and how to dispose of the mask correctly. Firstly, they need to understand that single-use face masks should not be reused.”
She highlighted recent WHO guidelines on how to correctly wear a face mask.
She said the WHO recommends thoroughly washing your hands before putting the mask on. This should be done using soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser with at least 60 per cent alcohol as an alternative.
When putting your mask on, make sure it covers your mouth and nose and fits snugly with no gaps between your face and the mask.
While using the mask, try to avoid touching it. However, if you have to, make sure you immediately wash your hands afterwards.
Dr Al Awadhi says that if single-use face masks become damp, they should be disposed of and a new mask should be worn.
“When removing a mask, the user should not touch the front of the mask. It should be removed from behind using the elastic bands that hold the mask. It should be discarded immediately in a closed bin. The user should clean hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water.” Dr Al Awadhi said that masks are effective when worn correctly and when used in combination with frequent hand-washing and sanitisation.
She also emphasised that masks should only be disposed of in a garbage bin that is closed.