April 2, 2020

Covid-19: Are Zimbabwean made masks safe?

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Takudzwa Chihambakwe

There is a hive of activity at most institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe as students and lecturers are running around to see what they can do to help curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which has since been dubbed by the Government as the “invincible enemy”.

Some of the institutions have created prototypes of ventilators which are urgently needed in the hospitals that will be handling infected individuals.

 On the other hand, there is also a sustained drive to protective clothing for the health practitioners who will be attending to suspected coronavirus patients.

One of the things that will be produced at the various centres are face masks.

 These play a critical role in protecting the health personnel from contracting the virus when attending to patients.

ZTN spoke to the Minister of Health, Dr Obadiah Moyo who highlighted that as the institutions begin the exercise of making the masks, quality is a major priority.

Zimbabwe Minister of Health, Dr Obadiah Moyo

“We want to have our local institutions creating high quality and high calibre masks. Otherwise if the masks are porous and allowing the virus in then we are doing nothing,” said Moyo.

“So what we have done is to identify the correct material to be used for making the masks. All the institutions that will be producing the masks will also be made to observe quality control measures.”

Moyo added that they have given the tertiary institutions samples to guide them as they go on about their work.

“We are also aware that they are some individuals that are making these masks in the private sector and we encourage them to adhere to set standards and ensure that they are making quality products,” he shared.

The issue of face masks is currently topical world over as most countries, just like Zimbabwe, desperately need them as part of their anti-coronavirus gear.

Recently, The Brussels Times reported that 100 000 FFP2 masks destined for Flemish rehabilitation hospitals in light of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic had been deemed unusable.

“In the absence of a trademark, it seems to us that it would be preferable not to use them for direct contact with Covid-19 patients,” said the Health Agency’s administrator-general Dirk Dewolf on 23 March, the same day that their delivery was announced by Flemish Minister of Wellbeing, Wouter Beke.

“It turned out that they did not come from China, as has been said, but from Colombia. They were packed in boxes of used bananas and cornflakes, which is against the regulations. In one box, we found the excrement of an animal,” added the director of Antwerp’s RevArte hospital, Ludo Splingaer. “As a result, we still don’t have enough appropriate masks to protect our staff.”

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