Covid-19: Should you wear a mask or not?

Published Apr 1, 2020


Cape Town – There is understandable confusion around the use of masks and their effectiveness in preventing Covid-19 infection, however Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has been emphatic in his response to the matter. 

“There is no question about the fact that the masks are actually one of the best ways of preventing the spread of infection. And we recommend them in particular where people have got any cough or any symptoms. Or in a situation where social distancing is a bit difficult. So make sure people can use those masks where possible,” said Mkhize.

On the same day, The New York Times reported the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US was considering promoting all to use masks after weeks of telling the public not to use them.

In simple terms: Wear a mask if you can 

Here’s why wearing a mask is important

Data from the outbreak in China suggests ⅓ of positive cases were asymptomatic cases in the early stages of the outbreak. These are people who showed no symptoms of Covid-19 but were infected and unknowingly infected others. This trend was evident in Iceland and the US.

Flat surgical masks, N95 masks or any cloth mask prevents people from touching their face which therefore reduces the chance of infection.

What should we do?

- South Africans who are at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 should wear official masks (essential service personnel) along with confirmed and suspected individuals.

- The general public should also wear masks, preferably cloth masks to prevent a shortage to those who need it most and to prevent touching your face.


Do not stockpile masks, you are taking away the protection of those who are directly exposed to the virus on a daily basis.

- Dispose of all masks after one use or when they become moist, do not reuse single-use masks from previous days. Especially cloth masks.


Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds before putting on your mask.


Cover your mouth and nose with the mask, and make sure there are no gaps between the mask and your face. It has to be tight.


Do not fiddle or touch the mask while it is on your face.


Masks are not a guarantee of prevention. Always wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds, keep to social distancing rules and remain inside during the national lockdown. 

*This article was first published on 

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak visit IOL's  #Coronavirus trend page

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the government's 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or go to  SA Coronavirus for more information.

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