It is alarming to note that despite the rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic, most people are beginning to discard their face masks, an early sign of user fatigue. This is dangerous. The directive by the Federal Government making the wearing of face masks compulsory across the country is still in force.
Besides, it is still in force even in a global context. The pandemic has not been conquered anywhere. Preparations for the resumption of flights to a few cities should not be interpreted to mean that the dreaded coronavirus disease is over. This laxity is observed everywhere in the cites and in the villages. This is surprising as even the powerful are still being reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 scourge.
Nigerians must, as a matter of necessity, continue to wear face masks to protect themselves and others since it is globally recognised and approved as a strategy for curbing the spread of the virus.
There are no two ways about it. Nobody should wait to be forced to wear a face mask, especially, now that community transmission of the disease is rife. The rules and guidelines are there for people to follow and protect themselves from the deadly virus that has taken a ghastly toll on economic and social life around the world.
In the same vein, the directives and guidelines on the need for markets to be opened on some days for people to restock on household supplies have not been revoked. So, it is still important for the set protocol to be complied with during the process. The use of face masks and hand sanitisers on market days and in public places where more people are gathered, etc, are non-negotiable to limit the spread of the virus until the scourge blows over.
The reality of coronavirus is no more in doubt; everyone knows that a deadly invisible enemy is lurking around. For millions of people around the world, COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest challenge they have ever faced in their lifetime.
Experts have been harping on a fact that the use of face masks by the public, together with social distancing and hand washing, prevent the transmission of coronavirus and so can save lives. People should not feel that the directive is just a government directive in Nigeria. People in the developed economies including North AmErica, in Europe, Asia, etc; have not discarded their face masks despite their sophistication. This is science, which shows its results through evidence and not politics without evidence.
COVID-19 is spread from aerosols (tiny viral particles). We breathe in aerosols in crowded places like trains, buses and markets, and we touch our face inadvertently, numerous times with potentially infected hands. Masks protect against all this and will be even more crucial when the lockdown is eased to prevent a resurgence of cases.
According to Dr. Beng Gohm, Emeritus consultant physician, Royal London Hospital, the argument against mask use is incoherent. We can teach the public how to use masks properly, and ask people to use cloth masks until more medical masks are available to ensure enough supplies. Government has a duty to protect lives by a comprehensive strategy of physical distancing, hand washing, mask-wearing and protecting the vulnerable.
With all this information, nobody should wait to be coerced to wear a face mask and observe all the rules, including frequent washing of hands and physical distancing. Granted that there may still be those doubting the existence of the coronavirus, truth is that such people are doing so at their own risk.
Fortunately, the initial fear that there won’t be enough face masks to go round has been overcome with the ingenuity of Nigerians. Tailors are now making good face masks that Nigerians are buying at affordable prices. With between N50 and N100, depending on the location, one could get a locally made facemask. With this development, nobody should bandy excuses not to wear face masks in public places.
Some people want to be arrested by law enforcement officers and punished before they would wear face masks. Perhaps, the plan of government to prosecute defaulters should be implemented on some people to serve as a deterrent to others. But doing that merely shows the low state of mind of some people.
There is no doubt that law enforcement officers are overwhelmed by the situation already. The onus is on individuals to draw the attention of those flouting the law for public health interest. Everything should not be left to the police and other law enforcement officers. Let’s do some voluntary peer review and even rebuke on this.
Having said that, it is important to also sensitise the public on the mode of wearing the face mask. The mask should cover the mouth and nose. The essence is to prevent fluid from one person to another. The face mask protects the other person.
Finally, the face mask should not be worn for too long. One should release to get fresh air to prevent hypoxia (lack of adequate oxygen) in the body. Nobody should see the wearing of a face mask as a joke. Instead, it should be seen as a matter of life and death.