Two buyers wear protective masks

TAKING PRECAUTIONS: Two buyers wear protective masks to help combat the spread

of the novel coronavirus as they leave the Namdevco Wholesale Market in Debe yesterday, after purchasing vegetables. —Photo: DEXTER PHILIP 

Once you are going out in public, you should wear a mask made out of cloth, the Ministry of Health has now officially advised.

However, the ministry admonished the public yesterday that using a mask alone will not reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 and that they should continue to stay at home and follow proper personal hygiene guidelines.

It said in a media release yesterday that N95 and surgical masks should be left for healthcare professionals.

The ministry’s latest advisory coincides with guidelines issued by the US Centers for Disease Control on Friday.

The CDC said on Friday said, according to recent studies, a significant portion of individuals with the virus lack symptoms and that even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.

“This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission,” the CDC advised on its website

“Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure,” the CDC stated.

The CDC and the Ministry of Health previously recommended that only those with symptoms of the virus or those taking care of someone with COVID-19 wear masks.

At Saturday’s Ministry of Health media conference, Chief Medical Officer Roshan Parasam said, based on the new CDC guidelines, the public can use cloth-like and homemade masks when going to high-risk areas like supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware stores and banks and while using public transportation.

In a media release yesterday, the Ministry of Health reiterated Parasram’s advice and added that cloth masks, including homemade masks, should be used as a part of a full range of personal protection measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Persons must follow the recommended procedures for the use of masks, including sanitising hands before putting on and after removing masks. Cloth masks should also be washed and dried thoroughly before reuse,” the ministry further noted.

It said the consistent use of masks at home is recommended for every member of the household if a family member believes that they have been exposed to COVID-19 and if someone in the home has COVID-19 symptoms.

UNC to begin donation of cloth masks soon

Meanwhile, the United National Congress announced yesterday that it will begin distribution of cloth masks “as soon as possible”.

In a media release, the UNC said Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been mobilising seamstresses, tailors and donors of cloth and other supplies to sew face masks for those who do not have.

“The UNC is asking those who can, to step up and let us all join in the fight by donating materials such as cloth and elastic bands and those who can volunteer their services such as sewing and stitching to step up and let us all work together,” the release said.

“In addition, the UNC has taken note that several Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, where the wearing of face masks has been the norm have been faring better than Western nations in the fight against COVID-19,” it added.

Noting the CDC’s latest recommendation, Persad-Bissessar urged the public to wear masks if they must leave their homes.


PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley has accused media houses of “harassing people with lies”, saying yesterday media in Trinidad and Tobago were not independent but instead “have interests to protect”.