Friday 30 October, 2020

Masks useless if not worn correctly, says Deyalsingh

Photo: A medical professional wears Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as part of a demonstration by the Ministry of Health on March 4, 2020. Photo by Alina Doodnath

Photo: A medical professional wears Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as part of a demonstration by the Ministry of Health on March 4, 2020. Photo by Alina Doodnath

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh urged citizens against panic-buying of face masks which he said are useless if not used correctly.

Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday at the Ministry’s Port of Spain office to address concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19), Deyalsingh said people who use the mask incorrectly may actually encourage the spread of the virus.

He urged citizens not to buy masks when they don’t know how to use them correctly.

He said: “Wearing a mask by the average Trinidadian and Tobagonian is of absolutely no use, as a matter of fact, it is more dangerous because the average person who does not know how to put on a mask, or who puts on an ill-fitting mask is going to be adjusting and touching their face."

"People buy masks who don’t need them and don’t know how to use them, have created an artificial shortage and now first-line responders in the private sector now don’t have that."

"I am appealing to the public, stop buying masks and leave those masks for the doctors and nurses in the private sector, they need it more than you."

Deyalsingh reassured that health care workers and first responders are adequately provided for with PPE. 

(Photo L-R: Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and head of Global Medical Response of Trinidad and Tobago (GMRTT), Paul Anderson, display preparedness for any suspected cases of COVID-19, including one isolation pod (iso-pod) which will be used to carry patients from one facility to another. Photo by Alina Doodnath.)

“One of my jobs this morning is to comfort healthcare workers who have fallen victim to the narrative that we don’t have PPE for them or that we don’t care about them. Nothing could be further from the truth."

“The protection of our frontline responders – nurses, doctors, attendants, ambulance drivers – is foremost in our minds.

Deyalsingh outlined a basic stock inventory of PPE as follows:

N-95 face masks: 19,680

(Ministry has ordered another 100,000 and 24,400 will be in the country by next week.)

Cone-shaped masks: 12,100, awaiting 25,000 more plus ad-hoc purchases of around 25,000.

Sterile gloves: 855,060

Non-sterile gloves: 17 million

Shoe covers: 227,100

Isolation gowns: 313,000

Sterile surgery gowns: 19,000

(Video: The Ministry of Health displayed the procedure for donning Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)).


He said the items have not been distributed yet because it ‘makes no sense’.

“It makes absolutely no sense to take this stock and just send it throughout the system. Because of COVID-19, there are international supply chain disruptions around the world for everything including PPE.

“We are jealously guarding this more than adequate stock of PPE. There is PPE in this system for routine work…to take care of our first case when it comes and then when/if you have an outbreak then PPE could be rushed to those locations.

“It makes no sense to take all this PPE and distribute it into the system and then when you have a case you can’t find it."

(Photo: A mannequin lies within an 'iso-pod' as part of a demonstration during a media briefing on March 4, 2020. Photo by Alina Doodnath.)

Additionally, he said the Ministry can access stock from the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) in Panama, which he said can be flown to the country in two days if needed. 

He said: "There is absolutely no risk of running of running out of PPE or emergency medication...we will make all of this available as soon as it is needed."

He urged people against spreading fear and panic over the virus and promised that the Ministry would send two updates per day regarding any issues related to the virus.

“Let us be responsible, creating fear and panic will be more dangerous than COVID-19.”


When to wear a mask

According to the World Health Organisation, if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with a suspected 2019-nCoV infection.

Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing - masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly, WHO says. 

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