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The risks involved in using locally made facemask in Sierra Leone

Immediately after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, lots of issues popped up. One of them was Ethiopia and Tanzania tested their masks and found out that the imported masks from china were positive of the coronavirus pandemic. As such the masks pose a threat of infecting half of their population with the coronavirus if the masks are allowed to be used. This and other related issues gave rise to the locally made face masks. 

President Julius Maada Bio, confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus disease 2019 on 31 March, a 37-year-old man who traveled from France on 16 March and had recovered from the hospital.  On 1 April, Sierra Leone confirmed its second case which had no history of travel or contact with the country’s first case.   The government announced a 3-day lockdown starting on 5 April. Later, on 4 April, two more cases were confirmed and a further two on 5 April bringing the total to 6.  On 9 April, after the end of the three-day lockdown, the government announced additional measures. For an initial period of 14 days all inter-district travel is restricted, a curfew from 21:00 – 06:00 is in effect, shops are to sell essential items only and people are to stay at home unless they have a good reason not to. Face masks are strongly encouraged, especially in public places.

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In Sierra Leone, the government made it compulsory for every citizen to put on a face mask before accessing any government office, public places, public transportation, or bank so the demand for face masks is very high. The locally-made mask built by the local tailors with either cotton, wax, or other materials are widely accepted by all Sierra Leoneans. We have seen all types of locally made face masks. It is an irrefutable fact that they are the most sold commodities presently in the country. The demand for them is very high thus it has lured more people to embark on selling it.

Alas, according to some visibility studies, it’s more likely to buy contaminated face masks than contacting the coronavirus. I have seen a face mask seller wiped her face and neck with a bunch of unwrapped face masks while she was sweating profusely. Around Soldier Street which is very close to the CID headquarters, I saw a lady was busy quarreling while placing the masks on the ground. Not to talk about the authority forcing citizens to put on face masks before they are allowed to cross certain checkpoints. If they don’t have, they will have to buy right at the checkpoints before they allowed to cross the checkpoints. Most of the face masks are unprotected and sold by children.

Again some texture of certain masks cannot allow people to breathe freely so it has the tendency to cause suffocation and affect the lungs which are more dangerous than contacting the coronavirus.  

  The fact still remains that people don’t have time to wash these face masks before using them and the way how the sellers exposed the masks to germs and other infections is entirely worrisome. So the situation with the general populace is “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. In a common-sense people may contact the coronavirus if they fear using the masks and or contact other infectious diseases through the way these sellers are mishandling the sanity of these masks. 

I advise the buyers and traders of the locally made face masks to pay a great deal of attention to the details and sanity of the masks. Once it’s bought people have little or no time to launder them they just put them so they can complete the task for the moment. While I have yet to visit any tailor shop to see the places they make these masks but the onus is on the tailors and the traders to take good care of the masks as they could be responsible for the drastic tackling of the virus or contribute in spreading the virus and other diseases.

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Festus Conteh

Festus has been volunteering in writing stories of social issues at both community and the country at large. Festus was looking to secure a brand new opportunity in an innovative, friendly atmosphere where he can utilize his soft skills and in-depth knowledge in story writing. He can also write a project proposal of any kind.

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