‘Masks off, unless you’re ill’: Principal medical officer issues warning

Principal Medical Officer Dr Karen Webster-Kerr

Principal Medical Officer and National Epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr is warning persons that incorrect use of masks could make them more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus (Covid-19).

Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Dr Webster-Kerr, noted that with the onset of the virus, many persons have been seen wearing masks and it is important to know how and when to use the devices.

She said that the mask is only useful for persons who are infected “because it acts as a barrier for persons if they sneeze or cough, so that the little droplets are contained within”.

Entertainers Spice (left) and Ishawana wearing facemasks during recent travels.

“If for some reason, persons who are ill have to interact with persons who are well, they should put on a mask. They should wash their hands first and once they are back in their own space they should take off the mask and wash their hands properly,” she noted.

Dr Webster-Kerr pointed out that persons who are well and wear a mask could unwittingly infect themselves. “If you are wearing a mask you can become infected by touching your face after touching the mask, which may have come in contact with contaminated droplets… or a contaminated area,” she explained.

Dr Webster-Kerr advised that masks are not recommended for general use. “If you have it on for long periods, you are likely to touch it, plus you are sweating underneath it and you are likely to be moving it around,” she pointed out. She noted that persons have been seen with the masks on their forehead and at the chin or throat, which may actually be spreading germs. Dr Webster-Kerr noted that persons who are wearing masks could develop a false sense of security and become less vigilant in protecting themselves from infection.

Experts say do not wear a facemask unless you are ill.

“You will probably become more susceptible if you are not taking as much care as you should,” she said, stressing that using a mask incorrectly is worse than wearing no mask at all. She is advising persons to protect themselves against contracting COVID-19 by staying away from sick persons, continue to wash hands and use sanitisers with alcohol content of 62 per cent and above.