KOTA KINABALU: Businesses and government departments with high people-to-people contact where social distancing is not an option often raise the question of the need or requirement for their frontline staff to wear facemask to avoid Covid-19 infection, as cases are increasing around the world.

With coronavirus cases popping up in West Malaysia, many have begun buying face masks as a form of protection.

With governments worldwide advising citizens to avoid close physical contact for fears of spreading the virus, even some religious services have had to adjust. As of now, there’s no Health Department guidance telling Malaysians to wear face masks, either the basic surgical face masks or the N95 respirators that some health care workers wear to treat infectious diseases.

Participants at the Covid-19 Countermeasures Forum last Thursday at Dinawan Meeting Room of the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) heard what Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu Hospital Resident Consultant Dr Timothy William, who is an Infectious Diseases Specialist and Physician had to say on the topic.

“Your frontline officers, should they wear a mask? Frontline staff meet a lot of people – in banks, hotels, hospitals reception counters etc., not doctors because when we go in to see a patient, we already wear mask,” Dr Timothy William said, stressing that, “I am just giving you the scientific facts.”

“The answer is yes if it is used properly. The answer is no if it is not used properly. You have to ask yourselves and your staff whether they can use mask properly or not,” he said, informing that the wearer is supposed to wear a mask one time only for a couple hours before disposing of it properly.

Dr Timothy William said there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease, so the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. To prevent the spread of any respiratory diseases: 

1. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; 

2. Cover your cough or sneeze with your inner elbow arm or a tissue and throw the tissue away; 

3. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects;

4. Wash your hands often with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The proper way to wash your hands is for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, after going to the bathroom and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

“For many, it is not possible not to touch the surface of the mask or face with a hand instinctively even once after an hour or so. If they can refrain from touching their mask or face, then wear mask,” he said, insisting that, “You must have an alcohol-based hand rub. Your staff should constantly hand-rub.”

“If you want to wear a mask, you have to wear it properly. You have to change it constantly, because a moist soiled mask may have the infectious droplets on its surface. So, the person wearing it will have to change it constantly and not touch the surface of their face. They have to take care in taking it off in a proper manner and safely dispose of it properly.”

Demand for masks is the highest it has been in months with many reported global shortages as manufacturers and suppliers work around the clock to meet worldwide demands.    

To lend credence to what Dr Timothy opined, it was reported that experts and organisations from the WHO and CDC do not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19.

They recommended that people should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it or by people who have Covid-19 and are showing symptoms.

This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of people infected with Covid-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

It was reiterated that healthy people shouldn’t wear surgical masks improperly because they won’t protect them from the novel coronavirus. But medical workers who treat patients with novel coronavirus do need respiratory masks. 

The CDC recommends to only wear a mask if a health care professional recommends it used by people who have the novel coronavirus and are showing symptoms – that’s in order to protect others from the risk of getting infected.

While the CDC does not recommend N95 respirator masks for the general public, it does recommend them for health workers. But certain types of facial hair can prevent respirator masks from working effectively.

“Exercise, eat a good diet, get enough sleep, wash your hands, do everything you can to stay healthy,” Dr Timothy William encourages the audience.



Source: Daily Express
  • Date Tue, 3 Mar 2020
  • Outbreak Covid-19
  • Category Sabah
  • View 498