Dr Atwine Warns Failure to Wear Masks Could Roll Back Gains in War on COVID-19

Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine has expressed concern over the public’s failure to wear face coverings correctly as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The President directed mandatory use of masks. More than 5.8 million masks have been distributed in 19 border districts. However, we are concerned people don’t use masks correctly,” said Atwine while appearing on radio west in Mbarara town, western Uganda on Wednesday night.

“Ensure that both nose and mouth are covered in order to ensure the masks are effective. The masks are not for the chins and ears. Keep the mask hanged in a clean area or in a clean envelope/container when not wearing it,” said Atwine.

The senior health ministry official wondered why Ugandans should be policed to wear masks.

“Our priority is saving lives. Wearing masks should be a voluntary effort. We’ll be inconvenienced but we must preserve life. In future, we will look back and take great pride in victory over this virus,” said Atwine.

Atwine, a doctor by profession, also warned against poor handling of masks.

“Don’t use a detergent to wash masks. You should wash and dry re-useable fabric (cotton) mask daily. Remove the filter before washing the mask. If the filter is washable (e.g. polypropylene) wash and dry it separately. If you wear a dirty masks, you will get other infections,” she cautioned.

Experts say face coverings are helping limit the spread of Covid-19 across the world.


However, there is low take-up by the public, a situation that could lead to more transmissions of the novel virus.

COVID-19 is spread through sneezing, coughing, talking and breathing.

When an infected person wears a face mask, the mask blocks the virus from spreading through sneezing, coughing, talking and breathing.

The mask also prevents droplets from an infected person reaching the nose and mouth of the person wearing it.

Atwine encouraged the public to use non-medical masks and that medical masks should be preserved for health workers in health facilities.

She said when a double cloth mask is used with a filter inside, its protectiveness is over 95%.

Atwine says it’s mandatory to wear a mask while in public places

According to Health Ministry guidelines, children aged 2- 6 years are very active and cannot take care of their masks and observe hygiene. They only put on masks under close supervision. Children below 2 years are not supposed to wear a mask as they have a small lung capacity.

People with breathing difficulties are advised to seek advice from medical personnel.

Public places

Atwine said people should wear masks when going to public places such as work, public transport, markets, supermarkets, shops, classrooms, places of worship, healthcare facilities.

“You can wear masks when acceptable social distancing is not possible; when one has a cough, cold or sore throat even when at home and when at home and visited by a person who is not part of the household; when in any congested area and when at work places, especially when with colleagues,” said Atwine.

She said people should not wear a mask when running, jogging, or doing other physical activities.

“It is not necessary to wear a mask when you are alone in the car but have it ready in case of another passenger or when you step out,” said Atwine.

Appearing on TV West, Atwine demonstrated to the public how to put on the mask.

“Hold onto the straps or loops and place it over the nose and mouth all the way to the chin. Avoid touching the front and inner sides of the mask. The mask should be kept on even when talking. In case of need to remove the mask like for eating or drinking, the mask should be removed completely by holding on to the straps and folded with the inner side in and placed in a clean container such as an envelope. It may also be hanged on nails, hooks etc, in such a way that it does not touch any surfaces. Wash hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer whenever one touches the front or inside of the mask,” she observed.

Atwine is touring western Uganda where she is inspecting health facilities and assessing medical personnel’s preparedness in combating COVID-19.

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