Before everything else – wash your hands
The WHO position is clear – masks alone will not protect you from the coronavirus. The first line of defence is frequent and thorough hand washing and social distancing.
Changing behaviour by putting a face to an invisible disease.
Even though the messages around hygiene and social distancing have been promoted through the media for months, around the world, people are just not complying.
The United Nations have put out a call to creative agencies to help send messages out to encourage compliance. We believe that there are low levels of compliance because it’s an invisible disease, and if we can make the disease visible, we can start to change behaviour.
If used incorrectly, masks can do more damage than good.
Experts do not agree if washable cotton masks help to slow down the spread of coronavirus. Some even believe that cotton masks increase the risk of spreading the virus. This document outlines the debates so that you have all the facts before you join our movement.
The WHO is very clear that if you use a mask you must be careful about how to use it, or you could risk spreading the infection further.
There are numerous articles explaining how wearing masks can increase the risk of coronavirus infection. Both the US Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams and the UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, warn that if they are not used properly, masks can increase the risk of infection. The current educational around wearing masks covers disposable masks.
In cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers, in the British Medical Journal determined that “Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in an increased risk of infection. Further research is needed to inform the widespread use of cloth masks globally.”
It is clear that any mask needs to have educational material about how to use it, and the level of protection it offers. This material should reinforce the WHO core messaging of hygiene and distancing.
Leave medical masks for medical professionals.
Around the world, consumers are panic buying and hoarding medical masks.
There is now a global shortage of professional medical masks, so front-line medical professionals are using homemade, reusable cotton masks. This means the people who need the most protection are getting the least.
This list keeps growing:
Some protection is better than no protection.
The National Institute for Public health and Environment in the Netherlands researched homemade, washable, cotton masks and found that they do offer some protection:
“Any type of general mask use is likely to decrease viral exposure and infection risk on a population level, in spite of imperfect fit and imperfect adherence, personal respirators providing most protection. Masks worn by patients may not offer as great a degree of protection against aerosol transmission.”
A 2013 study, published in the Journal of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness found that a homemade mask gives half as much protection as a surgical mask does, but does reduce the number of expelled by volunteers. Surgical masks are three times more effective than blocking transmissions than the homemade masks are. Homemade masks should only be considered as a last resort.
Building a Nation by doing our bit.
A social movement like this can connect people in times of disconnection and crises. South Africans sit alone, at home, distance from their normal lives. Feeling part of something bigger gives a sense of common purpose. It stops us feeling helpless.
The dramatic success of #IMSTAYING is testimony to the power of collective contribution and a mass social movement.
Making masks during the lockdown.
South Africa is in lockdown, and this comes before anything else. Our movement aims to keep people busy at home, without entering into the risks of leaving their homes and have arranged for local security companies to collect masks and drop off the fabric at makers homes.
We are not completely clear on the Government’s stance on reusable cotton masks.
Zana Products has been given permission to produce and courier fabric facemasks.
“We have been given permission from the CIPC to produce and courier fabric face masks (only) during the 21 days national lockdown period. Fabric face masks are considered protective wear under government guidelines.”
The message also includes a disclaimer: “These face mask will absolutely not prevent you from contracting COVID-19 but will stop you from coughing and sneezing onto others when visiting the shop or pharmacy during the lockdown. They are not filtered and are not surgical grade if you feel like that is what you need please contact a medical professional. There are research and opinions both FOR and AGAINST fabric face masks. We have provided you with info on our masks, please as a consumer use your discretion when choosing to purchase one.”