While masks approved by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) would be ideal in preventing Covid-19 transmission, people who cannot afford these triple-layer masks should use what they have, but also practice good personal hygiene and social distancing.
The Chief Co-ordinator of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, said the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) followed the latest guidelines and specifications of the World Health Organisation (WHO), especially the triple layer of cloth.
“We continue advising that if you want to buy a face mask, the ideal one would be those approved by SAZ because they meet the required standards,” she said.
“However, depending on available resources, people can use any other cloth mask, but again it should be noted and emphasised that face masks alone do not protect people from Covid-19.”
Zimbabwe has been ahead since it started advising people to wear masks way before WHO’s recommendations.
In addition, part of WHO’s latest guidelines say that masks should be worn by elderly over 60 years of age and people with underlying conditions, yet in Zimbabwe, current law is that everyone must wear a face mask, regardless of age or health condition.
Public health specialist Dr Fortune Nyamande said in line with the latest guidelines, the country must devise ways of ensuring that face masks especially those sold in different outlets meet the required standards.
Dr Nyamande implored Government to adopt these new guidelines.
According to the latest guidelines, cloth masks should consist of at least three layers of different materials: an inner layer being an absorbent material like cotton, a middle layer of non-woven materials such as polypropylene (for the filter) and an outer layer, which is a non-absorbent material such as a polyester or a polyester blend.
“Fabric cloths, such as nylon blends and 100 percent polyester, when folded into two layers, provide 2-5 times increased filtration efficiency compared to a single layer of the same cloth and filtration efficiency increases 2-7 times if it is folded into four layers.
“Masks made of cotton handkerchiefs alone should consist of at least four layers, but have achieved only 13 percent filtration efficiency. Very porous materials, such as gauze, even with multiple layers will not provide sufficient filtration; only thee percent filtration efficiency,” read part of the new guidelines.
WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the latest guidelines were based on academic research requested by WHO.
“Based on this new research, WHO advises that fabric masks should consist of at least three layers of different material. Details of which materials we recommend for each layer are in the guidelines,” he said.