After insisting for weeks that healthy people did not need to wear masks in most circumstances, health officials across Turkey and the world are changing their guidance in response to a growing body of evidence that people who do not appear to be sick are playing an outsized role in the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that the novel coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets and can stay viable for up to 72 hours on certain surfaces, as well as be transmitted by people who are asymptomatic, prompted governments to take stricter measures.
Most recently, the Turkish postal service began distributing to citizens five medical (surgical) face masks weekly free of charge after the government announced that wearing face masks in public spaces was mandatory to curb the spread of the virus.
Naturally, everyone has been trying to get their hands on more masks ever since.
However, doctors in Turkey are warning that improperly using such masks can cause more infections.
To avoid accidentally infecting yourself while putting on a mask, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that you follow these steps.
Before putting on your mask, make sure you wash your hands with soap or water or an alcohol-based sanitizer for at least 20 seconds. Then with dry hands, hold only the elasticated bands or ties, making sure the colored part (USUALLY green, yellow or blue) or if white all over the side indicated by the manufacturer is facing outwards, place the mask on your face. Put one loop around each ear or tie the ties behind your head in a bow. Once it is in place, pinch the top bendable edge of the mask with two fingers to adjust it to your nose shape, ensuring there are no gaps and your mouth and nose are covered.
The most important thing you'll see people doing wrong is touching the mask while using it, especially the front part where the mouth is located. According to doctors, this is just inviting the virus to infect you as if you unknowingly touched a contaminated surface with your hands, you are introducing it to your respiratory system by touching the mask on your face. If you do happen to catch yourself doing that, take off the mask, wash your hands and put on a new one.
To remove the mask, again, make sure your hands are clean and take it off from behind the ears, do not touch the front at all. Dispose of it immediately by throwing it in a bin with a closed lid and wash your hands again.
As soon as your mask gets damp, whether from sweat or a sneeze or a cough, replace it. Do not reuse or try to wash single-use masks.
Gülay Kılıç, an infectious disease doctor, also warned that the public shouldn't be trying to get their hands on N95 respirator masks as supplies are already low and there are not enough masks for health care personnel who actually need them.