Time To Wear A Better Mask, Experts Say

In this photo taken on December 2, 2020 a face mask hangs with a table tennis bat cover at a park in Beijing. GREG BAKER / AFP
In this photo taken on December 2, 2020 a face mask hangs with a table tennis bat cover at a park in Beijing. GREG BAKER / AFP

 

 

As new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus spread, experts say it’s time to consider using a medical-grade respirator, or wearing a surgical and cloth mask together.

Scientists have agreed for some time the main way the virus is spread is through the air, rather than surfaces, and there’s growing evidence that small droplets from ordinary breathing and speech that can travel many meters (yards) are a common mode of transmission.

Added to this is the greater contagiousness of emerging variants, like B.1.1.7, which takes a smaller viral load to cause symptomatic Covid-19 compared to the more common strain.

Fit and filtration

Back when authorities first recommended people wear face coverings, proper masks were in extremely short supply and the public was encouraged to fashion makeshift solutions out of T-shirts or bandanas. But these are far from ideal.

Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, who studies airborne disease transmission, told AFP: “How well a mask works depends on two things: filtration and fit.

“Good filtration removes as many particles as possible, and a good fit means that there are no leaks around the sides of your mask, where air — and viruses — can leak through,” she said, adding even a small gap could lead to a 50 percent reduction in performance.

The best materials for blocking small particles include non-woven polypropylene, which is used to make N95s and many surgical-type masks, and the HEPA filters in planes. Among fabrics, tightly woven cotton works best, she added.

Doubling up

“If you wear a cloth mask, choose one that has multiple layers, ideally one with a pocket that you can slip a good filter material into,” said Marr. “Or you can double mask by wearing a surgical-type mask with a tight-fitting cloth mask over it.”

Surgical masks are made of material that filters things out well, but they tend to be loose, so adding a cloth mask on top holds down the edges and reduces leaks.

Adding an additional layer improves filtration — if one layer traps 50 percent of all particles, combining two gets to 75 percent.

But, she added: “We do not recommend wearing more than two masks. Adding more layers proves diminishing returns and can compromise breathability. It must remain easy to breathe through the layers; otherwise, air is more likely to leak in around the sides of the mask.”

Masks that have a metal nose bridge help ensure a snug fit, as do straps that tighten around the head, not just the ears. Braces that improve the fit of surgical masks are now available on the market.

“You should feel the mask sucking inward when you breathe in, and if you hold your hands around the sides of the mask, you should not feel any air leaking out when you breathe out,” said Marr.

Medical-grade respirators

Another option is getting hold of N95s, or their international equivalents such as KN95, FFP2 etc.

“They all provide a similar level of filtration, meaning protection of particles going in and out,” Ranu Dhillon, a global health physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Dhillon, who has been advocating in favor of better masks since last spring, is frustrated by the lack of clear messaging to the public on the value of better masks.

What’s more, “there’s not been a concerted push to really mass produce and mass distribute these higher caliber masks.”

Health care workers have their masks professionally fit-tested every year to ensure they’re making the right seal, but Dhillon doesn’t see this as a major obstacle.

“To teach people to fit a mask, even if not 100 percent perfectly, but more effectively, is something that’s very doable.”

– Masks in our future? –
The key to conceptualizing the threat is to think of cigarette smoke, said Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland.

Ventilation definitely helps, but if you’re between a person who is breathing and an exhaust vent, the virus will still reach you — which makes good masks so crucial, he said.

Milton and Dhillon are cautiously optimistic that their pleas could soon become policy under the administration of President Joe Biden, and CNN reported last week the US government was working on the first official mask standards.

Prior to the pandemic, Milton and other aerosol scientists studying the flu concluded it too is transmitted from tiny droplets from ordinary speaking and breathing, and that the role of sneezing, coughing and transmission from surfaces was smaller than thought.

Their findings stirred controversy at the time, but Covid-19 has renewed interest in the research — meaning masks could be a common sight during tough flu seasons, long after the pandemic has receded.

Foreigners Without Face Masks Punished With Push-Ups In Bali

An undated handout picture released on January 20, 2021 by Bali’s Satpol PP, the provincial public order agency, shows an official looking on while a man performs push-ups as punishment for not wearing or improperly wearing face masks. Handout / SATPOL PP / AFP

 

Foreigners caught not wearing face masks on the Indonesian resort island of Bali are being subject to an unusual punishment: push-ups.

Video footage circulating on social media this week shows tourists in T-shirts and shorts being made to do the exercise in sweltering tropical heat as masked security officials stood over them.

Bali authorities made wearing a face mask in public mandatory last year as Indonesia battled a raging Covid-19 outbreak.

In recent days, however, scores of foreigners have been caught without face coverings, said security official Gusti Agung Ketut Suryanegara.

More than 70 people paid a fine of 100,000 rupiah ($7), but about 30 others said they did not have the cash.

Instead, they were ordered to do push-ups.

Those not carrying a mask had to do up to 50, while those who were wearing one improperly were punished with 15.

“At first, they would claim that they didn’t know the regulation,” Suryanegara told AFP. “Then they said they forgot, or that the mask was wet or damaged.”

Some Indonesians on the island, which is a pocket of Hinduism in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, have also been hit with the unusual punishment.

Bali’s authorities have also warned that foreigners who break virus regulations could be thrown out of the country, although so far there have no reports of anyone being deported for failing to wear a mask.

The island, which has been hammered by the epidemic, remains officially closed to overseas tourists but is home to many long-term residents from abroad.

Foreigners living elsewhere in Indonesia can still visit.

AFP

COVID-19: Twelve Key Milestones In A Year Like No Other

A civil defence volunteer wearing a Covid-19 coronavirus-themed helmet takes part in an awareness campaign at a market in New Delhi on November 25, 2020. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

 

 

From the first cases in central China to hopes of a vaccine a year later, here are a dozen key developments in the spread and subsequent fight against COVID-19.

First death

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) is alerted to a cluster of pneumonia cases “of unknown cause” in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

On January 7, 2020 a new coronavirus is identified. Four days later China announces its first death in Wuhan from an illness which will be named COVID-19.

 

Doctors (Front and Rear L) from MEDU organization (Doctors for Human Rights) perform health checks at the Tiburtina train station on November 25, 2020 in Rome, as part of a MEDU mobile team series of free health checks. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Wuhan cut off

On January 23 Wuhan is placed under quarantine and cut off from the world. Countries start to repatriate their citizens from China.

On February 15 France reports the first death confirmed outside Asia, a Chinese tourist.

 

A doctor (C) from MEDU organization (Doctors for Human Rights) performs a temperature scanning on a homeless man as doctors roam across the Tiburtina train station on November 25, 2020 in Rome, as part of a MEDU mobile team series of free health checks. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

‘Pandemic’

By March 6 more than 100,000 cases have been recorded around the world.

Northern Italy is locked down, quickly followed by the rest of the country.

On March 11, the WHO says COVID-19 is a pandemic.

Global stock markets crash.

Governments and central banks roll out massive economic support measures.

 

A student walks in the courtyard of Albert Street Primary School during a break, in Johannesburg CBD, on November 25, 2020. – The school was created 12 years ago to provide basic education to the children of asylum seekers and refugees. Due the economic consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the number of students hosted in the school decreased from 168 to 50, creating a drastic reduction of staff. The lack of basic services as electricity is also a challenge. (Photo by LUCA SOLA / AFP)

Europe in lockdown

Spain (March 14) and France (March 17) order their populations to stay at home. Germany and Britain say people should avoid all social contact. The 27-nation European Union closes its external borders.

 

D'Tigress team after qualifying for the now postponed Tokyo Olympics.
D’Tigress team after qualifying for the now postponed Tokyo Olympics.

Olympics postponed

On March 24, the Tokyo summer Olympics scheduled for July 2020 are put off to the next year.

The next day the United Nations warns that the pandemic is “threatening the whole of humanity”.

 

The deserted Abuja City Gate, on the second day of a 14-day lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Abuja, Nigeria on April 1, 2020. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun / Channels TV
The deserted Abuja City Gate, on the second day of a 14-day lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Abuja, Nigeria on April 1, 2020. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun / Channels TV

Half of the world confined

Lockdown measures are enforced all around the world.

On April 2 more than 3.9 billion people — half of the world’s population — are forced or called on to confine themselves, according to an AFP count. The same day the threshold of one million cases is crossed.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is infected and ends up in intensive care.

Economy on its knees

On April 29 the battered US aircraft manufacturer Boeing slashes 16,000 jobs.

Many other groups including airlines and car manufacturers follow.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 20, 2020 a bottle and pills of Hydroxychloroquine sit on a counter at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah. GEORGE FREY / AFP

Hydroxychloroquine row

Backed by US President Donald Trump as a potential treatment for COVID-19, malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is judged to have no benefit in a study published in The Lancet on May 22.

The study is retracted due to problems with the data but on June 5 a British research group also concludes that the medicine did not help COVID-19 patients at all.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 1, 2020 a health professional works at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward where patients infected with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are being treated, at the Santa Casa hospital in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.(Photo by Douglas MAGNO / AFP)

Surge in Latin America

By June 7 the death toll reaches more than 400,000.

The surge of cases and deaths in Latin America causes concern.

Brazil becomes the country with the second biggest death toll after the United States. Its president Jair Bolsonaro calls it a “little flu”, before himself becoming infected.

Fellow COVID-19 skeptic Donald Trump will also get it.

 

Officials share face masks.

 

Wearing face-masks, final year students of Government Secondary School, Zone 3, Abuja, sit in a classroom as they write their West African Examinations Council exams, following the ease of COVID-19 lockdown order on Monday August 17, 2020. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television.

A boy wearing two face-masks records with his phone during a football match for international women’s day in Abuja on March 5, 2020. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/ Channels TV mna

Masks and anti-masks

With cases on the increase, several European countries make mask-wearing compulsory on public transport, in schools and shops and on the street, starting with the Czech Republic on March 18.

Anti-mask demonstrations are organised in Berlin, London, Paris and Rome.

Second wave

The grim milestone of a million deaths worldwide is passed on September 28. In October infections start to spiral in Europe, where many countries order new lockdowns and curfews.

The pandemic also picks up pace in the US, where its handling has become a key issue in the presidential campaign.

 

This creative image taken in a studio in Paris on November 16, 2020, showing a syringe and a vaccine vial with the reproduced logo of a US biotech firm Moderna, illustrates the announcement of an experimental vaccine against Covid-19 from Moderna that would be nearly 95% effective, marking a second major step forward in the quest to end the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

 

Vaccine hopes

On November 9, US biotech giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech unveil positive results of a vaccine, as the number of official cases passes 50 million.

A week later a similar announcement comes from US firm Moderna, with an AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine following fast behind. Authorities hope to begin vaccination campaigns at the end of the year in the US and parts of Europe.

COVID-19: Sierra Leone Schools Reopen Six Months After Shutdown

Elizebeth Moseray (R), a teacher at the Freetown Secondary School for girls address the students on their first day back at school in Freetown on October 5, 2020. – Schools in Sierra Leone have been closed for the last six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Saidu BAH / AFP)

 

Schools in Sierra Leone reopened after six months on Monday, as parents weighed whether it was safe for children to resume lessons.

School shuttered in the poor West African nation in March after the first coronavirus case was detected, affecting nearly three million children.

Face masks and hand washing have been made compulsory in schools across the country, where 2,269 coronavirus cases with 72 deaths have been officially registered.

“The normal school assembly has been suspended to reduce the gathering of school children and we encourage our pupils — if they feel sick — they should stay home or visit the nearest health centre,” Florence Koymebeh, principal of the Freetown Secondary School for Girls told AFP.

Some of the schools visited by AFP in the capital Freetown were partially empty.

“I came to the school to verify their coronavirus preparedness before I allow my kid to resume school tomorrow,” Jeneba Massaquoi, a parent, said.

“We are monitoring all schools for the adherence of the coronavirus regulations in schools,” Education Minister David Moinina Sengeh said.

“We have provided buckets and soap to all schools across the country, school authorities are expected to provide water for the hand washing facilities,” he added.

Aminata Kamara, a pupil who turned up for classes in Freetown, said: “I’m happy to be back in school after a long break.

“During the closure of schools we usually listen to a radio teaching programme by the ministry of education,” she added.

Sierra Leone boasts huge mineral and diamond deposits, but it remains one of the world’s poorest nations, still recovering from decades of war and disease.

AFP

Lives At Risk As Trafficking In Faulty Masks, Other Gear Surges – UN

File: Homemade protective face masks are prepared by Sarah, a 45-year-old volunteer, who sews face masks to be distributed to people in need, at her home in Vincennes, eastern suburbs of Paris, on May 7, 2020, on the 52nd day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). – (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

 

 

Lives are at risk as the new coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in the trafficking of substandard masks, sanitisers and other medical products, the UN warned Wednesday.

Organised criminal groups — exploiting fears and uncertainties surrounding the virus — are providing such products to cater to a sudden surge in demand and the supply gap, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report.

UNODC said it expected criminals to shift their focus to vaccine-related trafficking once one was developed.

Fraud and scams as well as cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure have followed the spread of the virus, it added.

“Health and lives are at risk with criminals exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to cash in on public anxiety and increased demand for personal protective equipment and medications,” UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly said in a statement.

“Transnational organised crime groups take advantage of gaps in national regulation and oversight to peddle substandard and falsified medical products.”

An Interpol-coordinated operation to target illegal online sales of medicines and medical products with participation of 90 countries in March led to 121 arrests worldwide and the seizure of substandard and fake face masks, as well as more than $14 million (12 million euros) worth of potentially dangerous pharmaceutical products, the report said.

Compared to an earlier 2018 operation, Interpol reported an increase of about 18 percent in seizures of unauthorised antiviral medication and a more than 100 percent increase in seizures of unauthorized chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug used to treat coronavirus patients in some countries.

UNODC called for increased international cooperation, strengthened legal frameworks and penalties and more training for those who work in the medical product sector, saying “only a common approach will enable effective responses”.

“We need to help countries increase cooperation to close gaps, build law enforcement and criminal justice capacity, and drive public awareness to keep people safe,” Waly said.

The UNODC report, which is a “preliminary assessment”, builds on information the body has collected from responses submitted by member states, its own field offices and analysis of open sources, official evidence, media and institutional reports.

 

Face Masks And Slippers: Museums Preserve Lockdown Life

Homemade protective face masks are prepared by Sarah, a 45-year-old volunteer, who sews face masks to be distributed to people in need, at her home in Vincennes, eastern suburbs of Paris, on May 7, 2020, on the 52nd day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). – GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP.

 

Would you put your slippers on display? The global coronavirus pandemic is still raging but museums are already gathering testimony and objects to remember life under lockdown.

“It’s such an extraordinary experience,” Beatrice Behlen, senior curator at the Museum of London, told AFP.

“When we knew there was going to be a lockdown, we started straight away talking about what we needed to collect something for the future.”

The museum, dedicated to the history of the British capital, launched an appeal for Londoners to donate items that reflect their lives during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It could be something that gives you comfort — one example mentioned often is maybe your favourite slippers, and you’ve been wearing them every day,” she said.

It might also be evidence of a new skill someone has picked up, whether knitting or cooking or making masks for healthcare workers.

Among the items collected so far are a pot of homemade jam and a makeshift rattle used to accompany the weekly “clap for carers” across the country.

“What is interesting for us is the story that’s behind it, not necessarily the thing itself,” Behlen said.

“It needs to mean something to the people. And we asked them to tell us about the object as well.”

– ‘Collection of emotions’ –

Harder to curate are the emotions people feel while isolated at home, the feelings of loss and fear, but also safety, hope and love.

In response to an appeal by the Museum of Home, also in London, one family has recorded how they set up a screen in front of their table so they could share a meal with relatives via video link.

Another transformed their living room into a workshop to make gowns for healthcare staff.

The museum is also asking people to record how they feel about their homes, which are now used as offices, classrooms and gyms.

READ ALSO: China’s Ground Zero Reports COVID-19 Infections

“What seems to be coming out time and again with some of the testimonies is people’s resilience to the situation and how they’re changing and adapting,” said museum director Sonia Solicari.

In one recollection, a man known only as Amarjit describes how his Victorian house in east London has become “a palace” during lockdown, as “everything now happens here”.

By contrast, Alex, who lives alone in a small flat with no outside space, says he feels like he is in “solitary confinement in prison.”

“However, I am grateful that I am safe and not in a difficult relationship — the neighbours downstairs constantly fight.”

Solicari says she has been surprised at how open people have been.

“It’s really become a collection of feelings and emotions, as well as a collection of images and testimonies,” she told AFP.

“So it documents feelings, which can be very hard for museums to collect actually.”

– Insta-museum –

Curators around the world are making similar efforts to chronicle these historic times.

In Sweden, the Nordiska Museet in Stockholm is currently collecting children’s reflections of how their daily lives have changed and how they see the future.

In Vienna, a photo of a birthday in confinement and a kiss through a window pane are part of 1,800 contributions already collected by the city’s museum.

“You have to keep a record of this event to explain in 100 years time what happened,” said Sarah Lessire, who is coordinating an online archive project in Belgium.

“If we don’t act now, we risk losing all these memories,” she told AFP.

Her site lists multiple initiatives such as mutual aid groups on Facebook or a virtual May Day party.

The lockdown has also inspired three young advertising executives in Barcelona to set up a virtual museum on Instagram.

More than 900 pieces of work have already been submitted to the COVID Art Museum from around the world.

For bricks-and-mortar institutions whose doors have closed during the lockdown, however, there is a worry that they may not be able to show their collections to real life visitors for months.

Some fear they may not survive at all, including the Florence Nightingale Museum London, which is calling urgently for donations.

Dedicated to the pioneering nurse, the museum is situated in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson was recently treated for coronavirus.

AFP

Abia Govt Orders Arrest Of Residents Without Face Masks In Public

File photo. Olivier MORIN / AFP

 

 

The Abia State government has ordered the arrest and prosecution of residents who go out of their houses without wearing face masks.

It also said it would dethrone traditional rulers and village heads of boundary communities in the state who grant entry to vehicles and persons from neighbouring states.

The Commissioner for Information in Abia, John Okiyi, disclosed this in a statement sent to Channels Television on Tuesday.

According to him, the results of all samples taken from contacts of the two index cases and sent to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) returned negative.

Okiyi, however, noted that the government was expecting results for 44 other samples sent for testing and would make the outcomes public.

“Starting from this week, our epidemiologists will commence active case search in all the LGAs in the state to ensure that no case in the state goes undetected,” he stated.

The commissioner said although the dusk to dawn curfew imposed by the state government has ended, that of the Federal Government (8pm – 6am) would be enforced.

He added that the closure of Akwa Ibom’s boundaries with neighbouring states remained in force until further notice.

Okiyi states, “Vehicles that breach the curfew imposed by the Federal Government are to be confiscated and the passengers kept in quarantine at the nearest appropriate medical facility or handled as may be advised by members of the enforcement task force.”

He added, “Government has noted with dismay the unpatriotic activities of some traders who open markets at dawn to attend to buyers from mostly outside the state, with particular reference to Kent Street, Aba, Ariaria International Market, Asa Nnentu and Ohiya Spare Parts Market, and wishes to warn those engaged in such practices to cease from it forthwith or face the full wrath of the law which will include the sealing of such shops.

“Henceforth, traditional rulers and village heads of boundary communities in the state that permit vehicles and persons from neighbouring states into our territory will be dethroned and tried for breach of the state’s COVID-19 regulations.”

Anyone Found Without A Face Mask Will Be Prosecuted – FG

 

The Federal Government has announced that anyone found moving about without a facemask will be prosecuted.

This was disclosed in a document by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 on Friday, as part of the guidelines it released for the implementation of the phased and gradual easing of the lockdown.

The five-page document which was signed by the PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, also noted that anyone found with a temperature above 38ºC will be mandated to return home.

“Anyone who presents a temperature of above 38ºC will be mandated to return home and call NCDC for evaluation,” the statement read in part.

It added: “Anyone without a face mask/covering will be asked to return home and will be prosecuted.

“Anyone violating the curfew in a non-emergency situation will be prosecuted. Anyone attending a gathering of more than 20 people will be prosecuted.

“Any member of the public who violates the ban on Inter-State movement as outlined in this guideline will be prosecuted.”

President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as part of measures to curb the spread of the disease.

He, however, announced in his broadcast on Monday that there would be a gradual easing of the lockdown in the three cities from May 4.

The PTF has urged Nigerians who do not have any important reason to be out, to stay indoors as the fight against the COVID-19 is yet to be over.

Read Also: PTF Releases Guidelines To Implement Gradual Easing Of COVID-19 Lockdown

See the full list of guidelines below.

How Easing Of Lockdown Will Be Implemented – PTF

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has given a breakdown of how the easing of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will be implemented.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday April 27, approved that as from May 4, the lockdown could be eased in phases to allow the recommencement of socio-economic activities, as with a 6:00 am t 8:00 pm curfew in place.

But according to the National Coordinator of the Task Force, Aliyu Sani, during Wednesday’s briefing, the easing of the lockdown is actually just a shift from one set of interventions to another.

“The most important thing I want to emphasize is, even though we talk about easing the lockdown, in actual fact, we are not really easing, we are just shifting from one set of interventions to another because we are really still far from controlling this epidemic,” he said.

For general movements outside the curfew periods, the PTF coordinator said: “people may go out for work, to buy necessary food and for exercise but we strongly advise persons to restrict themselves to their local government areas except for those that live in metropolitan areas”.

Interstate travel, according to him, will be restricted to only those involved in the supply chain and services such as goods, agricultural products, petroleum products, courier services and relief items etc.

On the other hand, for intrastate movement, services and businesses were advised to provide hand sanitizers for customers.

The general public was also advised to imbibe the use of face masks, and other hygiene methods.

On the issue of mass gatherings, Aliyu said there shall be no gatherings of more than 20 persons anywhere per time so as to ensure adherence to physical distancing.

For the manufacturing sector, “we encourage shift work for manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies and limiting staff to only 30-50% to maintain physical distancing and pharmacy shops may remain open overnight,” he said.

Financial institutions such as banks will be allowed to open but there will be restriction of opening hours between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Restaurants have been asked not open to the public but will be allowed to engage in in-home delivery of food.

Academic institutions are, however, advised to remain closed until further evaluation is done.

“Schools are encouraged to continue with e-learning and virtual teaching”, the PTF coordinator added.

As for government staff, he stated that they will be allowed to resume based on specific grade levels and specific days, so as to reduce the level of congestion at the workplace.

China Seizes Over 89 Million Poor Quality Face Masks

Women wearing face masks wait on a street to enter a supermarket in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province on April 3, 2020. Hector RETAMAL / AFP.

 

China has confiscated over 89 million poor quality face masks, a government official said Sunday, as Beijing faces a slew of complaints about faulty protective gear exported worldwide.

Demand for protective equipment has soared as nations across the globe battle the deadly coronavirus, which has infected nearly 2.9 million people.

But a number of countries have complained about faulty masks and other products exported by China, mostly for use by medical workers and vulnerable groups.

As of Friday, China’s market regulators had inspected nearly 16 million businesses and seized over 89 million masks and 418,000 pieces of protective gear, said Gan Lin, deputy director of the State Administration of Market Regulation, at a press conference.

Regulators had also seized ineffective disinfectants worth over 7.6 million yuan ($1.1 million), she said.

It is unclear how much of the confiscated goods were destined for markets abroad.

In a bid to eliminate poor-quality products, China released new rules Saturday saying even non-medical masks must meet both national and international quality standards.

READ ALSO: Australia Launches App To Trace COVID-19 Contacts

Exporters must file a written declaration that their medical products meet the safety requirements of the destination country, the ministry of commerce said in a statement.

The tighter rules come after several countries including Spain, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Turkey were forced to recall hundreds of thousands of shoddy masks and pieces of protective gear imported from China.

The Canadian government last week said that about one million face masks purchased from China failed to meet proper standards for healthcare professionals.

Dutch health officials last month recalled over half a million Chinese masks — which had already been sent to hospitals – after complaints that they did not close over the face properly, or had defective filters.

According to official figures, China’s daily mask production has passed 116 million.

In the first two months of the year, a staggering 8,950 new manufacturers started producing masks in China, according to business data platform Tianyancha.

Despite the nationwide crackdown, businesses were continuing with illicit production of medical equipment since it was a way to earn “quick money” Jin Hai, a Chinese customs official said earlier this month.

Over 31.6 million faulty masks and 509,000 protective suits destined for export had been confiscated by port officials as of mid-April, he said.

AFP

COVID-19: Kano Govt Orders One Million Face Masks

Kano state Governor Abdullahi Ganduje
Kano state Governor Abdullahi Ganduje

 

The Kano State Government says it has placed an order for the production of one million face masks as part of efforts aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje made this known while addressing journalists in the state on Saturday.

The move is in line with the government’s plan to make the wearing of face masks compulsory.

“We have also directed all the 44 local governments in the state to produce face masks for their people,” the governor said.

The governor commended frontline health workers for their courage and determination to fight the pandemic and assured them that his administration is committed to ensuring their safety.

Meanwhile, the government has also set up 10 mobile courts to try violators of the lockdown order in the state.

The state government has since shut all of its borders. To ensure compliance with the measures, Governor Ganduje said the state has started registering constables to support the police.

According to the NCDC data, Kano State currently has 73 COVID-19. However, the agency’s testing centre in the state, which is located at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital has stopped operation due to a lack of testing kits.

Since the centre halted operations, no new case has been reported for the state since April 21 and the state now has to send samples to the nation’s capital, Abuja, for testing.

In his briefing on Saturday, Governor Ganduje said the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 is doing its best to resuscitate the testing centre in the state.

He appealed to the Federal Government to set up additional testing centres in the state due to the number of cases it has and its population.

The governor thanked the Nigeria National Petroleum Company for the supply of an ambulance and other kits to be used in the state and assurance that they will be used judiciously.

Why We Are Not Doing Door-To-Door Sample Collection – NCDC DG

 

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Mr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has explained why the agency is not doing door to door testing for the COVID-19.

According to him, door-to-door testing is currently not a realistic strategy for the over 200 million Nigerians in the country.

The strategy, however, that has proven to be more feasible, is identifying people who meet the case definition within communities and getting their samples out for testing.

“It’s not really our strategy to go door-to-door to 200 million Nigerians,” Ihekweazu said while answering questions during the briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Friday.

“We have a strategy of looking for people who meet the case definition and even in communities where we are testing, we are not testing everybody. We are still asking “do you meet that case definition?” if yes, we collect samples,”.

Not A Silver Bullet

Addressing questions on the use of face masks, the NCDC DG said they only serve as an extra layer of protection from the COVID-19 but are not an all-in-one solution to the virus.

“The masks can only be used in conjunction with everything else,” he said, adding: “It is not a silver bullet and this is something we’ve been emphasizing as much as possible.

“It is just an additional measure to everything else we’ve been doing and so, we have to continue doing those things together.

“Yes, we’ve all started using masks whenever we are outside but please don’t stop washing your hands, don’t stop your physical distancing. Do all of them together. It is only by doing them together that we will get the effect that we want”.


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COVID-19: Lagos Govt To Enforce Wearing Of Face Masks From Next Week


In some states across the country such as Cross River, wearing face masks has become compulsory, failure of which serious sanctions will be meted out on defaulters.

In Lagos State which has become the epicenter of the virus in Nigeria, the Government says it will enforce the use of face masks from next week, in addition to the other measures being put in place.