African Countries Are Moving to Make Masks Mandatory – Key Questions Answered

Community members wearing protective face masks as they queue for aid in Zandspruit informal settlement, north of Johannesburg. Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

Many countries, including South Africa and Nigeria in Africa, are moving to make it mandatory to wear non-medical cloth masks when people are outside their homes. The move is seen as a vital additional measure to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19.

Wearing cloth masks is being introduced in conjunction with maintaining a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres and strictly following hygiene measures such as hand washing, good cough etiquette, and decontamination of regularly used surfaces.

Medical face masks have been a vital part of COVID-19 prevention efforts in East Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

In countries where medical face masks are preserved for healthcare workers or are scarce, fabric face masks provide a cost-effective alternative. These can be homemade and are reusable.

There has been a growing movement of homemade mask production. Factories have also repurposed to produce fabric face masks to support commercial and free distribution.

In South Africa wearing a cloth mask in public places is now mandatory. In our view, there is sufficient evidence to suggest if everyone wears a mask, droplet transmission from each person will reduce and minimise exposure. Read more…

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