ISLAMABAD                   -             The Ministry of National Health Services on Sunday issued guidelines for the healthcare workers and general public to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to these guidelines, it is prudent for the people under the current circumstances to wear facemasks with an intention to protect their fellow beings from the droplets of their saliva, particularly when entering closed or congested areas and also to protect themselves.

As per these guidelines, a regular disposable facemask, which is also called a surgical facemask or a medical facemask is considered as one of the ‘Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs)’ of a healthcare worker. It is also used in the healthcare settings to cover the face of a patient, from whom spread of a communicable infection is a possibility, and many countries have adopted this as a national guideline.

“It is pertinent to remember that the use of ordinary facemask is not a substitute for adopting social distancing and at no time distancing be abandoned wherever required in addition to regular hand washing with soap and water,” it added.

In a healthcare setting, all the healthcare workers should follow the guidelines for wearing PPEs while the patients should follow the advice of their doctors.

All covid-19 positive and suspected individuals have been asked to wear disposable facemasks to ensure that others around them are protected from the droplets generated by them while breathing, talking, coughing or sneezing.

Similarly, it is given in the guidelines that all individuals should wear a disposable facemask or any other available mask, including that made of cloth, while leaving their homes with the intention of protecting others with whom they may come in close contact and also for their own protection.

The guidelines make it mandatory for the people to wear masks while in crowded places, mosques, bazaars, shopping malls and public transport, including on trains and flights.

Once the mask is worn, it is part of the face and it must not be touched with hands throughout its use.

If touched or handled after wearing, then hands must be washed with soap and water or sanitized with an alcohol-based hand rub according to the guidelines of the hand hygiene.

As per the guidelines, the mask should be replaced with a new one when it gets soiled or becomes moist while the soiled mask should be disposed of properly and the reusable one should be placed in a sealable polythene bag and placed in a dedicated pocket of the dress or in a dedicated pocket of a washable handbag.

The pocket of the dress or the bag, in which a soiled mask was saved, should not be used or handled for any other purpose before washing.

N95 mask is only needed in high risk healthcare facilities, and is beneficial only when worn with special precautions and appropriate procedures, the guidelines said.