President Yoweri Museveni has said government will not allow Ugandans to wear face masks that are not manufactured by the authorized companies since these masks might not meet the standards necessary to safeguard the users from coronavirus.
The President said this Saturday while speaking at the national prayers held at State House Entebbe.
He explained that as the country prepares to slowly reopen, the measures to avoid and treat Covid-19 will continue and that it will be mandatory for all people who go to public spaces to wear the face masks.
“We are opening slowly. The reason we had closed was to prepare better. We are now a bit more prepared. But we can’t go on with these serious restrictions. We must open but continue to avoid, treat as long as numbers are not too many. As we work on the vaccine. That’s the strategy,” Museveni said.
He said that in European countries like France, Spain, UK, Italy as well as other countries like U.S. where infection and death rates have been high, the mistake was the failure by authorities to prevent spread the disease early enough. This is what Uganda is avoiding, by enforcing serious restrictions, he said.
“What I’m wearing is an N95 mask. If I had the virus, and I coughed or sneezed, this mask will keep it to me. But the N95 is also for health workers who are in the theatre and they have to interact with sick patients. It (N95) filters 95% of what comes from the other person,” he said.
He however added that the improvised masks (ordinary masks) are also recommended.
According to the Health Minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the N95 masks are for medical workers deployed in isolation facilities.
“The health workers at the frontline can only use it (N95) once. The fabric mask is good for general population but the cloth must be double. It protects you from infection but also others from you. The masks with single cloth are not protective,” she explained.
She said masks are important since the virus can spend at least 45 minutes in the air when an infected person sneezes it or coughs it out. The masks protect the user from inhaling the virus.
However, while significant numbers of Ugandans are already moving out their homes to go to townships and major towns to do shopping and work, majority are not wearing masks. Those that do, the masks are improvised by tailors and they don’t meet the standards referred to by Dr Aceng.
It is not yet clear when the approved masks will be available for mass sale or how they will be distributed.
The President said that public transport means will only be safe for use if the passengers have masks. Government will also limit the number of passengers a bus or taxi can carry once the restrictions are lifted.
Both Museveni and Dr Aceng discouraged the use of Air Conditioning in facilities that accommodate people saying this is dangerous because the air stays within.
Some companies including Nyanza Textile Industries Limited (NYTIL) and National Enterprise Corporation (NEC), the UPDF business arm, have since repurposed their production to manufacture the much needed face masks at a mass scale.