As of December 11, 2020, it is mandatory for everyone in Pakistan to wear a face mask to cover both the nose and mouth. This is applicable for both indoor and outdoor public spaces. This means that you also need to wear a face mask while walking in the street.
Only the following categories of people are exempted from wearing masks: children under the age of 6, people with disabilities or mental illnesses, and anyone having trouble breathing. Furthermore, people during sporting activities are also exempted.
It is important to remember that the use of a face mask is not a substitute for maintaining social distancing and performing hand hygiene practices.
Wearing a mask helps to protect people around. It also helps to reduce the risk of being exposed to an infected person whether they have symptoms or not. However, be mindful that masks alone cannot protect you from COVID-19. It’s also important to ensure other measures, such as:
- Avoiding touching your eyes
- Washing your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Maintaining a distance of 1-meter from other people
- Avoiding crowded spaces, as well as hugs and handshakes.
You can read this article to learn about the existing types of face masks and how to wear them safely. In addition the detailed guidelines on ‘Mandatory Use of Face Mask’ issued by the Government of Pakistan can be found here.
General Tips on How to Use a Face Mask
The WHO shared some basic tips that should apply to any type of face masks:
Make sure that you have your own mask and do not share it with others.
Resist the temptation to pull down your mask or take it off when speaking to other people.
Do not store your mask around your arm or your wrist, and do not pull it down to rest around your chin or neck. Instead, store it in a clean plastic bag.
In case of COVID-19-like symptoms (runny nose, fever, tiredness, and dry cough), use a mask that is certified as a medical device. If you feel unwell get in touch with a medical doctor ASAP.
Medical Face Mask
A medical or surgical face mask offers the highest protection from virus exposure.
Surgical face masks are recommended for those who are at higher risk of developing serious symptoms, including people who are over 60, have underlying medical conditions, are feeling unwell, or who are looking after an ill family member.
Surgical masks are also for people who are suspected or confirmed to be infected to protect others from being infected. Please do remember that if you tested positive for COVID-19, you must stay at home in isolation for a minimum of 10 days and test negative at least once before leaving isolation.
Surgical masks are for single use only and can be used for a maximum of 4-8 hours. Do not use them multiple times.
How to Safely Use and Dispose of Your Surgical Face Mask?
The WHO has produced a short video to explain some basic rules to safely wear and discard your face mask. Make sure you respect them, in order to protect yourself and the others. Here you can also find a step-by-step guide of how to safely wear your medical mask.
Fabric Face Masks
Fabric masks are non-medical masks made of cloth. It’s important you understand that fabric masks are not personal protective equipment. However, fabric masks can protect others around you if you are infected but do not show COVID-19 symptoms. Please keep in mind that fabric masks are proven to be less effective than surgical masks.
Fabric masks are affordable and environment-friendly, but you have to be careful about the composition and its maintenance. Cloth face masks should:
- Include multiple layers of fabric that allow you to breathe easily. More details on materials and composition of a suitable fabric can be found here.
- Fit closely but comfortably, covering nose, mouth, and chin.
- Be washed with soap (at 60 degrees) or decontaminated after every use.
How to Sew Your Own Fabric Face Mask?
According to WHO, fabric masks should ideally have three layers, with the following characteristics:
- Outer layer should be a water-repellent material like polyester or polypropylene.
- Middle layer can be an insert or a fabric layer (ideally made of a spun bond non-woven fabric material) and acts like a filter.
- Inner player should be moisture absorbing fabric such as cotton.
If you want to learn how to sew your own fabric mask, you can find instructions here in English.
How to Safely Wear and Wash a Fabric Face Mask?
You can wear a fabric mask unless you belong to a particular group at risk (children below 6, people with disabilities or having difficulties breathing). This is especially important when you can’t stay physically distanced, particularly in crowded and poorly ventilated indoor settings.
Make sure you safely use your fabric mask. Check out this video out and see when and how children should wear a mask.
You can also find a step-by-step guide here on how to safely wear your fabric mask and what to avoid while wearing a fabric mask safely during COVID-19.
How to Safely Wear a Mask - Instructions in Sign Language
The following video by the National Institute of Health Pakistan provides instructions on wearing a face mask in sign language.
For more answers to your questions on COVID-19 and the measures implemented in Pakistan, you can check the FAQs of the COVID-19 Health Advisory Platform by the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations & Coordination.
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