In what looked like the last update on COVID-19, the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, relaxed the restrictions on our borders and announced us into normalcy again. Unfortunately, he specifically made the wearing of nose mask or masking up an option. While I am not a doctor or anything near to the study of medicine, it is a wrong decision.
Beyond the pandemic, the nose mask does a lot of good
Prior to COVID 19, wearing nose mask was a thing for mostly health practitioners. It wasn’t a big deal unless one had to guard against dust, smoke, fumes. Some research suggests the wearing of mask to be an effective remedy in the reduction of the spread of respiratory infections.
The finding was controversial before the pandemic because there were no relevant data to support their use, but things are different now. Respiratory infections are better managed with interventions like wearing a nose mask.
In the uncertainty of whatever viral or bacterial pandemic that may befall humanity in the coming years (hypothetically), it is prudent we culturally adopt masking up as a people.
In 2003 SARs surfaced. In 2012, cases of the Middle East Respiratory syndrome (MERS) were announced.
In 2019, COVID-19 was experienced, just to mention a few; all these conditions share the same source, have similar incubation periods, and show overwhelming similarities or characteristic symptoms in patients. If history is anything to go by, then masking up shouldn't be optional, especially for a community that hardly pays attention to social distancing.
Again, in the absence of readily available vaccines and effective drug therapies to treat people who fall sick to new or strange conditions in low-income economies like ours, the preventive measures of handwashing, physical distancing and mask wearing are the three lifestyle behaviors we should really normalize if we are going to be successful against viral outbreaks.
Yes, wearing a mask can become uncomfortable, particularly for prolonged periods in our warm environments, and covering the nose and mouth may inhibit verbal and nonverbal communication but the benefits is far reaching than feeling comfortable.
Dr. De-Graft Johnson, a General Practitioner at Vien Health argues Masking up is of uttermost importance despite the dwindling of Covid-19 cases. It is especially important to always wear a face mask when visiting any health facility or when you come into contact with a person exhibiting symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection such as cough, runny nose etc. The person also exhibiting such symptoms should also endeavor to wear a face mask.
Before the emergence of the Covid-19 disease, patients with certain transmittable respiratory diseases such as Tuberculosis, (particularly, Multidrug-resistant Tuberculosis and Extensively drug-resistant Tuberculosis) were urged to wear face masks despite being in isolation wards.
This implies that the use of face masks for the prevention of transmittable respiratory diseases existed long before Covid-19 and would continue to exist long after that.
The only difference now would be to extend the reach to ensuring all individuals with any form of respiratory disease, whether transmittable or non-transmittable, always wear a face mask, especially in overcrowded areas.
At some point in time during the pandemic, masking up felt and looked like the most patriotic thing to do. I think it's civil and still a crucial part of our civic responsibility. Masking up a significant contribution to the welfare of the community each Ghanaian lives in.
Masking up protects the economy. Our chances of recovering from quickly is high when we wear nose masks especially around others.
We prevent other diseases or conditions like severe colds that can result in sickness (or worse) which affects productivity.
In less than 24 hours after the presidential position on nose mask, patronage has drastically dropped. This is not a positive sign considering the unemployment levels this country faces.
It may be insignificant, but the nose mask industry created some jobs and kept people busy.
Secondly, nose mask is like handkerchiefs. While you cannot blow your nose, wipe sweat and tears or even dry or clean hands, it is an essential that doesn't only reduce the spread of germs when you speak, sing, cough or sneeze but also shields your mouth, nose, and face from another person's saliva during physical interactions.
That experience, especially in the tro-tro, when droplets of saliva from the mate or Evangelist or person selling medicine falls on your face or blown into your mouth can affect a ones confidence and disrupt your day.
So, carry a hanky but, add a nose mask too.
Masking up is Pro Life, Pro-choice, Pro Economy and PROgressively Ghanaian!
The author is a volunteer researcher at policy think tank Institute of Liberty and Policy Innovation, ILAPI.
photo credit: Africanews.com