On Monday 18th May 2020; the President made some further directives on COVID-19 to wit; mandatory use of the facial masks. He continued to say that the masks are those only provided for by the Government (even without showing a sample). These will only be ready in two weeks time. The time for distribution to every Ugandan is unknown just as the food has not reached all the intended 1.5 million Ugandans in 2 months.
What shall happen to the distribution of masks to the entire Country? The Stautory Instrument made by the Minister on May 8th makes it mandatory for every one to wear a facial mask while in Public but the same instrument does not define what a mask is or what categories of masks are acceptable! This loophole is susceptible to abuse by the enforcement agencies.
By Government making it mandatory for everyone to wear only a Government manufactured mask, is it trying to define what a mask is? Unless the Stautory Instrument is amended to include what amounts to a mask, any piece of cloth around one’s mouth and nose may suffice.
Secondly, what sort of masks is Government manufacturing? Are they medical or non medical? According to WHO? Medical masks are a preserve for only health workers who are high risk persons. If the Government is manufacturing non medical masks whether cotton or any other fabric; this is what the Public has always been able to access, simple cloth masks. Will the masks under quality assessment by National Drug Authority and UNBS? Will there be a second or third Opinion on the quality of masks being manufactured for public consumption? If some are found defective but already distributed to the public, what shall be the remedy?
Thirdly, what kind of scientific and medical advice did the President get to insist on Government made masks for everyone? According to the WHO guidance to Decision makers on use of masks published April 16th 2020; there is no need for Health people to wear masks therefore not mandatory but one can still choose to wear them if they can afford or feel they need to use it. It further provides categories of users such as one who is coughing/sneezing; one who is nursing a COVID-19 patient; a medical worker, those at the front line and those visiting the hospitals and isolation centres.
Further, according to WHO, there is no scientific proof that a healthy community must put on a mask in order to prevent COVID-19 and the nearest evidence could be available in two years as WHO is still researching.
Therefore, what informed Government’s decision to force everyone (especially the healthy community to wear mandatory government made masks-which we dont know whether they are medical or non medical?) It is important to ensure safety of persons but precision and careful decision making is important at this stage. According to the WHO, a cloth or cotton mask is also acceptable for use for non-frontline persons which in effect means that Ugandans can still use the masks that they have been using before the directive to use the Government ones.
Lastly, the masks must be used if one is in public according to the Statutory Instrument. Does one inside their Private car amount to public to warrant a mask? Will drivers of private cars be pulled off the road for not wearing a mask inside their cars with windows closed up? What are the healthy consequences of using masks for long hours to children, teenagers, middle age and the elderly? What are the exceptions we have especially for people with respiratory issues such as asthma? How will an LDU know that one is not wearing a mask because they are either below 6 years or have respiratory issues! We need to be careful otherwise we may even develop more respiratory issues in the wrong use of masks all in the name of COVID-19.
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org