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Summary: Proper use of cloth masks during COVID-19 response

Updated as at 04/05/2020: The Western Cape government has made the wearing of cloth masks mandatory when you leave the home to access essential services or purchase essential goods.

We’ve summarised the recommendations below.

What mask should I use?

• Frontline healthcare workers need N95 respirators and medical masks so they can safely perform their duties and save lives.
• There is a global shortage of both of these masks, so please do not obtain or hoard them for personal use.
• The public is urged to use cloth masks. Cloth masks, when coupled with no physical contact and proper hygiene considerations, can reduce transmission of droplets from others and reduce inhalation of droplets.
• Cloth masks create awareness of COVID-19 and are relatively inexpensive, and easy to make.

When should I use a cloth mask?

1. When travelling to and from work in public transport.
2. When stepping outside the house to go shopping or seek healthcare.
3. When self-isolating at home if contact with others is necessary.
4. When stopping and talking to members of the public. (eg. Traffic police)
5. When conducting interviews during house to house visits. (eg. Community workers)
6. When cleaning the streets or disposing of domestic rubbish.

If you cannot make the mask properly or use them properly, it is safer to not use them at all.

Make masks for your home, and then make more to donate to others who can’t make their own.

Using the mask

Using a cloth mask is not a replacement for proper hygiene considerations, and will not ‘make you safe’ from contracting COVID-19.

You must still remember the basic hygiene golden rules:

1. Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
2. Do not touch your face with unwashed hands
3. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the corner of your arm, and safely throw away the tissue
4. Keep a distance of 1.5 meters from others
5. If you are ill, stay at home. If need be call a medical facility to arrange for a clinical assessment, the COVID-19 national hotline on 0800 029 999 or the provincial hotline on 021 928 4102 for advice on what to do next.

Guidelines to use a cloth mask

1. Wash your hands before applying and after removing a mask.
2. Only use a mask that has been cleaned and ironed.
3. Place the mask with the correct side facing your nose and mouth and covering both well.
4. Tie the strings behind your head, or if you are using elastic bands, make sure these are tight and place around your ears.
5. Make sure your mask fits well. Move it around to get the best fit, but be careful not to touch the cloth part.
6. Once you have put on the mask, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE again until you take it off.
7. When you take it off, undo the ties, and carefully fold the mask inside out, hold it by the strings/elastic and place the mask in a container preserved for washing the cloth mask.
8. Wash hands thoroughly and dry before doing anything else.

Cleaning the mask

• Tip: Have at least two cloth masks per person so you can wash one and have a clean one ready for use.
• Wash the mask daily in soap and hot water.
• Rinse thoroughly and dry.
• Iron the mask, as this is the best means of disinfecting it.

Mathilde Myburgh

As a Communications Specialist, Mathilde brings seven years of experience in print and digital media, research and communication to the team, bridging the gaps between relevant content, community reach and growth, and public relations.

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