As of yesterday, wearing a mask in public enclosed spaces became mandatory in Albania. Those found flouting the rules face a fine of around EUR 16.
There has been much debate about the effectiveness of masks and plenty of false information shared on social media. Exit News brings you the truth behind the claims, why, and how you should wear your mask.
“Wearing a cloth/paper mask is pointless”
False. Wearing a homemade fabric mask or a paper mask is an easy, and cheap way to protect your community. The virus is believed to be spread through viral droplets that come out of our noses and mouths. Cloth acts as a physical barrier to keep these large droplets from going into the air where they could be inhaled by someone else. Wearing a mask like this reduces the number of droplets someone releases into the air. The fewer the droplets, the lower the risk someone will be exposed to COVID-19.
“If I’m not sick, I don’t need to wear a mask”
False. It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 to become apparent. During this time you have the potential to infect everyone around you. Furthermore, many cases are asymptomatic meaning someone may not even realise they are infected. Wearing a mask reduces the risk of you passing the virus onto someone else.
“My mask just has to cover my mouth”
False. The mask should cover your mouth and nose as droplets can come out of both. It should fit snugly over you face and tighten behind your ears. Do not wear your mask around your neck or chin, or over your head.
“Wearing a mask will make me sick”
False. Some memes circulated on social media claim that wearing a mask can be toxic, cause you to rebreathe carbon dioxide, and lead to collapse or even death. The amount of carbon dioxide you would rebreathe through wearing a mask for a short period of time is not enough to cause any injury or issue. Wearing a mask does not put you at risk of any “toxins” or medical issues from wearing the mask
“Mask wearing is an experiment to see how much of the population can be controlled”
False. It has been found time and time again that fake news is often created in troll farms run by nations that are hostile to western countries. These types of fake news, as is often the case with antivaxx narratives are designed to cause panic and result in harm in the population. By not wearing masks because they think it is an experiment, people are putting themselves and others at risk. These types of rumours are often sowed to create social discord.
“I don’t need to wear a mask because COVID-19 is just the flu”
Asides from the fact that influenza kills up to 650,000 people, including children and perfectly healthy adults every year, influenza is most definitely not the same as COVID-19. While the Coronavirus can present itself as asymptomatic or a mild cold in some people, it has been found to have long-term effects such as brain damage, neurological issues, lung damage, and strokes. Scientists do not fully understand the range of long-term implications of the virus on the body but there have been enough incidents recorded to say that these are common enough to be of concern. So while COVID-19 may not kill you, it could end up giving you long-term medical issues or impacting the life of someone close to you.
Why you should wear a mask
- Masks help to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is possible to have the virus without showing any symptoms so it’s best to wear a face-covering even if you think you are healthy. The mask helps to contain small droplets that come out of your mouth and nose when you talk, sneeze, cough and breathe.
- Wearing a mask is predominantly for you to protect others from contracting the virus. It provides some protection for you against those with the virus, but its primary use is to stop infected people from unwittingly spreading COVID-19. You are wearing the mask not just for your benefit, but for the health of everyone you come into contact with.
- While social distancing and handwashing are the most effective ways to contain the spread of the virus, they should be combined with mask-wearing in public and enclosed spaces to ensure optimum protection.
- While children tend to be mainly asymptomatic, they are able to transmit the virus to those around them. Children over the age of two are advised to wear masks in public and enclosed spaces.
How you should wear a mask
- Different masks provide different levels of protection. The N95 mask fits the face snugly and filters air to stop respiratory droplets from getting into the device. Surgical and cloth face masks are used to guard against the spread of the virus and do not have such a tight seal. These masks stop large respiratory droplets- believed to be the main source of the virus- from passing into the respiratory system. While they are not medical grade, they do provide a level of protection for the wearer.
- Leaving your nose uncovered defeats the purpose of wearing a mask. When wearing your mask, you need to ensure that it covers both your nose, mouth, and chin area. It should cover your face from the bridge of your nose to under the chin and be loose-fitting, but secure enough to remain in place.
- Touching it, adjusting it, pulling it down over your chin, or up, or removing it and putting it back on reduces its effectiveness.
- If you have long hair, it should be tied back from your face.
Different masks have different life cycles. Paper, medical and N95 masks provide several hours of protection (depending on the mask) and then need to be replaced. Cloth masks need to be washed in hot water and left to dry in the sun, after each use.
If you would like to purchase a cloth mask, you can do so via Vizion OJF. A non-profit NGO, they give assistance to women and children in need, as well as people living in difficult economic and social conditions. The group has been active for around eight years and works throughout Albania. Their masks are made by the people they assist and the money goes back into their communities.