Covid in UAE: Avoid cloth masks, doctors advise residents

Posted on 06-01-2022

Fabric face coverings are only 47 per cent effective against the virus

As Covid-19 infections surge worldwide, UAE doctors are advising residents to wear 3-layer surgical masks instead of fabric face coverings for better protection.

In particular, cloth masks made with cotton must be avoided, health officials said. Instead, residents may opt for surgical, KN95 or N95 masks.

Dr Sweta Prakash Adatia, medical director and neurologist, RAK Hospital, said: "In a study conducted, it was recorded that cloth masks offer just 47 per cent protection, whereas surgical masks, along with KN95 and N95, offer 95 per cent protection."

She also advised against wearing single-valve or double-valve masks because they "may result in spreading the contagion."

Specialised masks are the most effective, doctors have said. Dr Mohamed Zedan, family medicine specialist, NMC Royal Hospital in Sharjah, said: "Wearing tight masks like N95 and KN95 are the best steps to stop the infection spread."

Though the N95 is 95 per cent effective against Covid-19, it is inadvisable to use it on a regular basis. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends such masks for frontline health workers, Dr Adatia said.

For regular use, 3-ply surgical masks are the best option, as they offer good protection. These masks are worn by doctors in a clinical setting as well as in operation rooms.

Beyond just picking the right mask, healthcare specialists stressed the importance of wearing the mask correctly.

"I see people wearing masks with their nose uncovered and there is absolutely no protection in it," Dr Adatia said.

The purpose of a mask is not cosmetic, she added, but to protect the person who is wearing it. "Masks should have proper fitting so that it covers your mouth and nose. The size of the mask, the way it is worn and tightness of the mask is very important," she said.

The inside layer of the mask should not be exposed and must be handled with care. Doctors also said the same mask should not be used beyond its prescribed limit.

"N95 can be used for eight hours," Dr Adatia said. "These masks can even be sterilised and reused two or three more times."

Masks must be changed the moment they become soggy, which happens after eight to 10 hours, she added.