Since COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019, many in the international community have disagreed over who needs to wear a mask.
The NCDC noted in its advisory, published on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the use of medical face masks primarily for people who show symptoms of COVID-19, health workers and people who are taking care of people with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
However, the agency said it also now recommends face masks for members of the public as an additional layer of protection in addition to other safety measures such as physical distancing, and proper hand and respiratory hygiene.
“The primary rationale for the advice on face masks is to prevent those who are infected but asymptomatic from spreading the virus. Masks have to be properly disposed of in waste bins.
“Improper handling and frequently touching masks can increase the risk of infection.
“Improvised masks are also an option – as long as they are properly washed regularly. They can be made out of cloth or other materials,” the agency said.
The NCDC noted that the use of the face masks is recommended particularly while attending large gatherings that are absolutely necessary like shopping outlets, markets, shops and pharmacies, and others.
People over the age of 60 and with existing medical conditions are also particularly encouraged by the agency to wear masks because they are at higher risk of infection.
Other vulnerable people like those with ongoing respiratory problems, and those already exhibiting symptoms and awaiting testing are also advised to use face masks.
The agency stressed that the recommendation on wearing face masks will not be enforced by the government and is just a piece of advice.
Due to the global shortage of medical masks, the NCDC said public sector resources will be preserved to procure medical masks for patients and healthcare workers who need them the most.
Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, announced on Monday, April 13, that wearing face masks in public places will become compulsory for everyone in the state.
As of April 13, Nigeria has recorded 343 coronavirus cases in 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
91 people have recovered from the virus and been discharged, but 10 people have died.