NAFDAC explains how face masks made of cloth can reduce spread of infections

As Nigerians prepare to return to partial normal life from Monday May 4, 2020, following the relaxation of lockdown orders, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has offered some enlightenment on the medical products needed by Nigerians.

NAFDAC said it has put in place an expedited registration pathway to allow the granting of Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the masks and Personal Protection Equipment.

President Muhammadu Buhari announced on Monday that the mandatory use of face masks in public in addition to maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene will be strictly enforced when the lockdown is relaxed from Monday.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu also said on Saturday that wearing of face masks in public places is now compulsory in the state.

"Let me now formally announce that face masks are now compulsory in public places in Lagos State. Failure to use masks in public will invite sanctions and penalties," the governor said on Saturday.

Since the government made the use of face mask a compulsion, there has been a series of debates on social media on the effectiveness of cloth masks (which are now being widely advertised online) to protect against the virus. Series of videos testing the cloth mask with other types of mask has been circulating on Twitter, with social media users suggesting that the cloth mask cannot offer any protection against infectious disease.

NAFDAC has, however, said the cloth mask can help protect against droplets which spreads COVID-19.
A statement by NAFDAC's Director General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, said the non-medical face masks include self-made or commercial masks or face covers made of cloth, other textiles or other materials such as paper are not standardized and are not intended for use in healthcare settings or by healthcare professionals.

She, however, said the masks serve to limit spread of droplets and offer some measure of protection to those around.

The NAFDAC DG explained that "the material of construction is usually cloth (textile fabric), non-woven wadding, or paper-like materials. For these Barrier Masks, 100% cotton is preferred though, polyester, linen or knit fabric can be used.

To test the effectiveness of the cloth mask, "if wearer can put off a flame from a cigarette lighter that is placed in front of the wearer, the mask is protective enough," the statement said.

"Barrier face masks do not prevent you from contracting disease but, they have been found to contribute to reduce spread of infections when used widely in conjunction with other measures. Such measures include social distancing, not touching the face, eyes or mouth, washing of hands with soap for 20 secs or use of alcohol based hand sanitizers.

The agency also recommended that the face masks must be washed daily and preferably should be a double layer of fabric to increase the absorbency and effectiveness.

"It must be noted that several washes, drying and stretching of the mask over time reduce the effectiveness of the mask. Barrier masks are not intended for use in healthcare settings or by healthcare professionals."

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