In the absence of a vaccine for COVID-19, one of the preventive measures instituted by government and relevant health organisations against the virus is the use of face masks in public places. However, many people are abusing the protective covering with the manner they wear or use it.
Some people re-use face masks without washing them while others do not wear them properly to cover their mouth and nose.
Our correspondents observed that wearing the masks for some, involved wearing it on their jaw, chin or hanging it on the ear whenever they are at the market, shopping mall or other public places.
According to Dr Sani Aliyu, National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, many Nigerians only use their face masks either where they are to do so or to avoid law enforcement agents.
An Abuja resident, Kikelomo Adeniyi, said she was denied entry into a pharmacy in Gwarimpa because she did not have a face mask on. So she bought one from the peddlers across the street, wore it and entered the pharmacy. She did not know that not washing a new fabric face mask before use also puts her at risk of infection of COVID-19 and other diseases.
Another resident, Abidemi Adeleye, said she always put at least two face masks in her handbag and uses them interchangeably.
She said she keeps the face masks together and only washes them when dirty. “There are days I reuse the one that had been used if not dirty.”
A trader, Nwankwo Chukwudi, said he put his face mask on his jaw, “because I cannot kill myself. I find it difficult to breathe with the mask and then interacting with my customers is always difficult. If I wear this mask from morning to evening when I leave the shop, I will die,” he said.
Another resident, a technician, Abu Mohammed, said he stopped wearing face mask due to pain on his ears.
“I endured for some time but now I have stopped. I only tie my handkerchief around my nose and mouth when I am going to a place that the use of face mask is mandatory,” he said.
Recounting her experience, a Lagos resident, Lucy told our correspondent, “I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find it very difficult to wear the face mask for long. The last time I wore it, I created a scene when I threw up on the road. I was feeling so uncomfortable and sweating profusely. I had to call a doctor friend to explain my plight and he asked if I had a face mask on.
He explained that face mask when used for too long prevents one from breathing in enough oxygen, and when carbon dioxide (CO2) is breathed into the lungs for too long or when CO2 level become excessive, a condition known as acidosis occurs, that is , a build-up of acid in the bloodstream. Hence, the reason I threw up in public.”
Face masks, whether fabric, surgical or N95 are now also sold by hawkers and some people are in the habit of testing different ones before buying. Other people then buy and use without washing them.
Dr Ndubisi Onuoha, a consultant Physician and Pulmonologist, said the danger of using fabric masks by the public was insignificant. He said the use of face mask as a prevention for COVID-19 has some physiological changes though insignificant, adding that it was the medical mask that is more dangerous to wear for a long period.
He advised against wearing mask and driving, “Especially, when social distancing does not come to play and the person is driving alone or with one or two family members.”
Dr Onuoha said, not wearing face mask at all exposes one to higher risk of infection, adding that if the measure was not put in place, the rate of infection would have been higher than what was obtainable now.
An epidemiologist in University of Ilorin, Prof. Tanimola Akande said, “People are taking the issue of COVID-19 with levity. Rather than abuse the use of face mask, refrain from getting close to people. Take some time off from being close to people.
“It is always better to keep a distance so that no one will infect you and you won’t infect anyone.”
“Find some time to withdraw from the public and breathe well. It’s important not to suffocate yourself by putting it on for too long. Withdraw yourself and take some fresh air,” the public health expert advised.
The NCDC advised the populace to remember, to always wear a face mask while in public spaces, including places of worship.
“Please do not pull it below the nose or below the chin. Doing so can put yourself and others at risk for COVID-19,” the centre, advised.
Meanwhile, manufacturers are bracing up to the local production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to meet surging demand occasioned by the spread of COVID-19 across the country.
A number of factories and tailors are now producing face masks in large quantities. Some of them are also producing hand sanitisers, gloves and other PPEs.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo said, “The use of face masks and hand sanitisers on market days are non-negotiable to limit the spread of the virus until the scourge blows over,” Adebayo said recently.
The President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Engineer Mansur Ahmed, said Nigeria’s local face masks production capacity currently stands at 27 million per month.
He said considering that the country has a production capacity of only two million as at February, 2020, manufacturers had to brace the lockdown to ramp up production.
He said imports of essential goods, including face masks dropped due to border closure and travel restrictions, leaving local manufacturers with the burden of bridging the supply gap.
For instance, COE Face Masks and Essentials and Fashion Spaces Garment Factory, are two Abuja-based companies that are into massive production of face masks.
Street tailors can now produce face masks in Lagos.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the state has embarked on local production of face mask in large quantities.
He encouraged individuals and private organisations to buy the products from tailors.
In Kaduna, garment companies and even military institutions have turned their attention to the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of such companies is El-Jahab Mubarak Nig. Ltd.
Ahmad Jafa’aru Abdulkadir, a director at El-Jahab Mubarak told Daily Trust that the company, which has a workforce of over 200 staff including women, has the capacity to produce 15,000 face masks daily, 75,000 weekly and 300,000 monthly.
While saying the company was using specification given by the World Health Organisation (WHO), he said the company was adding Raschel interlining in between the two materials to minimize the spread of the droplets while still maintaining breathability.
Cross River garments factory produces 50,000 facemasks daily, Daily Trust learnt.
Governor Ben Ayade of the state had directed the state-owned factory to produce masks for the state’s ‘No Masks No Movement,’ policy.
The state has established a cotton wool factory in Yala Local Government Area so that the factory doesn’t run out of supply of raw materials.
Daily Trust reports that in Aba, tailors produce over 200,000 face masks daily.
The state governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, some months ago, challenged Aba tailors to commence the production of face masks and other PPEs in Aba.
Currently in Aba, there’s Queen Duruibe Fabric, Que Logistics, and De Luke Garment Factory in Umuobiakwa is churning out face masks in thousands, while Okotara Fashion Design began its own face mask using Ghana fabrics.
Aside from the clusters, tailors who are not among those selected for the state government’s grants were seen in front of their houses producing nose masks with Ankara materials and selling them at N300 each.
Now, tailors in Aba, are using local fabrics, cotton, and polypropylene to sew PPE for people looking to protect themselves. The Abia State government released a N12 million grant to support tailors to make the protective gear.
Meanwhile, Folorunso Daniyan, President of Nigerian Textiles Manufacturers Association (NTMA), has appealed to Lagos State government and other state governments interested in procuring face masks for their citizens to consider using its garment and textile manufacturing member-firms for supplies for safe, secure and hygienically-produced masks.
Recently, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) published an extract of the international standard AFNOR SPEC-S76-001:2020 earlier made available to the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Sustainable Production and Delivery of Essential Materials in furtherance of efforts to ensure production and use of quality face masks by Nigerians.
SON’s Director General, Osita Aboloma Esq., disclosed that the six-page handbill was to serve as quick guide to users as well as makers of masks, particularly the micro, small and medium.