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Much ado about face masks

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WEARING of face masks is one of the COVID-19 protocols approved by NCDc and World Health Organisation (WHO) to contain the spread of the disease. Others include provision of running water and soap for washing of hands, keeping of physical distancing, etc.

  The face mask is expected to prevent one from contracting the disease or spreading it to others if the person has already contracted the disease.

  Before the relaxation of the total lockdown following the emergence of coronavirus in Nigeria, Anambra State Government gave a directive that all public places, including markets, before they are allowed to open should apart from ensuring physical distancing must ensure that people wear face masks and provide running water, soap and alcohol based sanitisers at strategic places for people to use.

  The market task forces and market leaders are to ensure compliance. It was however observed that majority of the people in Awka, including Eke Awka Market do not obey government directives, particularly on wearing of face masks.

  Governor Willie Obiano, on Thursday, announced that the popular Eke Awka Market will be shut down for business for two weeks for not complying with COVID -19 protocols effective from Monday, June 15.

  According to a public service announcement signed by Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof Solo Chukwulobelu, “this is as a result of non-compliance by the market traders and customers with COVID-19 protocols including wearing of protective face masks, provision of running water and soap for washing of hands, keeping of physical distancing, etc.

  Also, effective Monday, 15th June, 2020, curfew in Awka South Local Government will be from 8pm to 6am daily, until further notice.

  “These actions by the government is as a result of increased cases of COVID-19 in Awka South Local Government.

  “The government is also putting other market leaders and local government councils in the state on notice that a similar curfew action will be taken, and markets in the local government closed down if it is observed that such markets do not observe COVID-19 protocols.

However, National Light reporter interviewed some people on why they wear or do not wear face masks, including their perception of the disease, among others.

  Dr. Johnbosco Ehirim, (O.D) said he wore face masks especially in the course of discharging his professional duties to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. He maintained that COVID-19 is real and advised those people who are of the opinion that it doesn’t exist to take a look at what is happening in other countries; the way the disease is killing people in their numbers.

  According to him, no government would use such pandemic to get their share of international money.

  Speaking on the attitude of traders in markets or even people in commercial vehicles who don’t wear their face masks, he said it’s very wrong as it gives room for the transmission of the virus and it is also against the directives of the NCDC in prevention of the spread of the virus from one person to another.

  “It is very necessary that every person should wear hand gloves which will prevent them from contracting the disease from a surface. On this note, I urge the citizens of our dear state to endeavour to take the measures as we hope to see progress in our livelihoods.

  Sylvania Muojekwu, who was not wearing face mask said,“I have so many reasons for not wearing face mask but I normally keep it inside my bag or hold it on my hands while travelling and as soon as I see the policemen at the check point, I will wear it in order to avoid embarrassment from them.

To start with, I don’t believe that there is coronavirus in Nigeria. This is because when someone tests positive of COVID -19, it is expected that it should be televised along with the patient”.

  On whether she believes that  wearing of face mask cannot prevent the coronavirus, she said: “There is this proverb that says “ngbochi ọrịa ka ọgwụgwọ ya”. It is always good to maintain good hygiene and neatness. Some people do not have the habit of washing their hands often, especially when they go out and return back home or even after using toilets.

I know that there are less chances of contacting diseases if we keep good hygiene and maintain proper neatness. Any time I leave my house or travel, I ensure to wash my hands before taking any edible thing. Even though I don’t often wear my face mask, I always have it in my bag while travelling.

  When someone dislikes regular washing of his hands but wears his mask always, he has the chances of contracting the virus because he doesn’t have the habit of washing his hands or even taking his bath at least twice a day. Any time I leave my house or touch something that makes me to wash my hands, I must not hesitate to wash my hands immediately. So, I wash my hands regularly. Even though someone wears his fase mask often and does not wash his hands, he will still contact it if the virus should be in Anambra State.

  When asked whether she has been to any bank since the pandemic and how she got access to the bank, she said, “I have not been to the bank since the beginning of the lockdown but I see many people there. Whenever I need to do transaction, I will either use POS or make a mobile transfer. Therefore, i dont think anything will make me to enter bank now.”

  Comfort Iheme, a student in the Department of Accountancy, Nnamdi Azikiwe University(UNIZIK), Awka, gave her opinion the face mask issue thus: “My opinion over this face mask is that it has turned to be something someone can use for fashion but i am not part of that from the beginning of the lockdown. I don’t like anything that will inconvenience me. Therefore, I don’t wear face mask.

  “The funniest thing is that even my female friends have their face masks according to the colours of their outing clothes. Whenever we are together in several occasions, I see it as a childish act because they often enjoy wearing it for fashion. I feel very uncomfortable to wear it because I don’t want it to wipe away my make ups.

The reason why most people do not believe in the existence of this disease is because there is no proof to the masses preferably via television stations. In as much as I love to makeup always, especially when I leave my house to places like weddings, church, market, parties and so on, I don’t wear face mask. My reason is that it will clean my lipstick and make me look different from how I want to look at the occasion.

  On how she copes with this challenge at  the bank or market, she said,”It is a challenge indeed but I normally go to those places with the face mask in my bag. In a place like banks, I put it on when it is my turn to go inside. The last time I went to Onitsha Main Market to buy things, the COVID- 19 Task Force in the market were chasing people without face mask. Unfortunately, I left mine at home but I bought another one to use at that moment. But it has taught me to always put the mask in my bag wherever I go in order to avoid such embarrassment.

  A consultant paediatrician, at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Hospital, Amaku, Awka, Dr. Obiora Izuora, emphasised on the import of face mask, saying that ”face mask is one of the measures you can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is a droplet infection from airborne. When somebody who tested positive of the virus talks, sneezes or coughs and you wear your face mask, it will prevent you from being infected. This virus is not an organism one can see without using a microscope. When you yawn, air comes out of your mouth and when you sneeze, the droplets come out from your mouth. It means that by wearing face mask, it reduces the transmission of the disease going into another person that is uninfected.

  On the medically preferred face mask among the ones being used by people, he said: The particular face mask that cannot allow air to pass through it is the one people can use so that when you cough or sneezes, the droplets will remain in the internal surface of the mask. But if it is porous, uninfected persons can still inhale it through the mouth or nose. That is the essence of wearing face mask for good because nobody knows who has it.

Once you are in contact with COVID-19, it could be symptomatic or asymptomatic. Those that are asymptomatic do not have symptoms and can still transmit the disease. They are the ones that are dangerous because as you go into the market, you don’t know who carries it while those ones we know that have symptoms will be in the hospital. Nobody is allowed to go close to them because they tested positive. It is only the doctors who are on their PPE that can near those patients.

The personal protective equipments are made in such a way that the virus cannot penetrate to someone’s body. They wear PPE, hand gloves, goggles, face masks and so on to prevent themselves from the patients who may sneeze or cough into the air.

  “Some face masks like ankara materials can still be used after using it for the first time. You should wash it, allow it to dry before you iron it so that the heat of the iron can kill the organisms. On the order hand, some face masks are expected to be disposed after using them once. The one that can prevent the COVID -19 very well is the one that does not allow air to pass through it. That is to say that those who use our fabric (ankara) to form the face mask should double the material to avoid penetration of air.

  On how dangerous face masks can be to aged people or children, Izuora said, “the fact is that everybody choose to wear face mask just to reduce the spread of the virus. But the most important thing is the way you use the mask. It is not good to wear it when you are doing heavy job that may demand consumption of energy because we need oxygen to survive.

If you cover your nose and mouth while running or doing other exercises, the rate at which you are getting oxygen will definitely be reduced and it will look as if the person is suffocating. This is applicable to children as they play most times in such a way that they consume a lot of energy. Therefore, children are not expected to wear it while playing.

  “The aged people are the vulnerable at this period. So, the disease is more severe to an older person or aged persons than children because their immunity is not optimal. That is why children fall sick often more than adult. As soon as the disease comes, they will catch it because their immunity is not optimal.

Therefore as you age, your immunity also decreases. If your immunity is strong, you can get it but it will be as if nothing is happening in your body. But if your immunity is not enough to fight the disease, that is where it will become a problem and you will start developing the symptoms. When doing exercise generally, there is consumption of energy for both adults and children especially if you are suffering from one illness or the order like asthma, pneumonia, etc; just like some people who do exercises at Alex Ekwueme Square.

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