This blog post is a round-up on masks including mask-wearing, care, and the environmentally friendly disposal of face masks.
At the last "family meeting" President Cyril Ramaphosa reminded us gently - but firmly - that whilst COVID-19 fatigue is real, the severity of the third wave should not be underestimated. We are all still required to take the same basic hygiene precautions we've been taking for the last 18 months, including the mandatory wearing of masks that cover your mouth AND nose when out in public.
As of 1 February, failing to wear a mask in public is a direct criminal offence in South Africa, which could come with up to six months in jail.
So we thought we'd provide readers with a convenient round-up of our previous blog posts related to masks. In no particular order, here are our top 3 posts on wearing and disposing of face masks in the proper manner.
Debating the pro’s and con’s of wearing a mask quickly became a moot point in 2020, and this blog post - written in April 2020 - has proven one of our most popular. In it, we tackle the questions that friends, family, and our readers were asking most often about masks and their efficacy, use, and care.
Everything in this post remains as relevant now - 14 months later - as when it was written, so read more on: '10 things you absolutely need to know about wearing a mask'.
Did you know that 94 million face masks are being thrown away every week? That's 376 million face masks which could be entering landfill every single month, and it is estimated that the average disposable face mask takes 450 years to decompose. If anything, this is certainly an argument for good quality, reusable fabric masks to be used for the majority of us who are not frontline healthcare workers.
In addition to masks, the increased focus on hygiene over the last 18 months has led to a huge increase in the use of latex gloves by members of the public, which has, in turn, led to increasing numbers of reports on the negative environmental impact of these items. Surgical gloves and masks are winding up on beaches and in the ocean, to add to the already massive plastic pollution problem we have in our seas.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global PPE disposal problem, and PPE (primarily masks and gloves) has started to wash up on beaches all across the world. This blog post covers how to correctly and safely dispose of used PPE.
It's important to remember that PPE (personal protective equipment) used for COVID-19 prevention (primarily disposable gloves and masks, but also plastic aprons, face shields etc) is classified as infectious waste, and must be disposed of safely, and according to the government regulations for the disposal of COVID-19 waste. Read more about safe and environmentally friendly disposal methods in our blog post: 'Your guide to PPE disposal'.
You may also be interested to find out more about our COVID-19 waste disposal services.
For how much longer?
So, when will we realistically stop wearing face masks? The CDC still recommends wearing a mask in any crowded outdoor situations and in all indoor settings outside of your home if you are not vaccinated, which means that given SA's relatively slow vaccine rollout, we're likely to still be wearing masks in 2022.
Not wearing a mask when necessary is “a very bad idea, especially with the spreading variants,” says Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease physician and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University. It’s “hard to say” when we can stop entirely, given that the end of regular face mask-wearing is tied to the end of the pandemic.
But, he adds, “if and when we achieve herd immunity, routine mask-wearing can likely be discontinued.” (Herd immunity means a majority of a population is immune to an infectious disease, providing indirect protection to those who are not immune to the disease, such as newborns or vulnerable people who cannot get vaccinated due to health risks.)
Additional hygiene precautions:
In addition to mask-wearing, employers are required to put safety measures in place for colleagues, like regular disinfection of surfaces and social distancing to minimise the risk of cross-contamination and contracting of COVID-19 on the premises.
Need help reminding staff about the importance of their hand hygiene measures? Download our Ultimate Guide to Hand Hygiene - fulls of advice and posters for your business.