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Pakistan Issues Guidelines for Face Masks to Curb COVID-19 Spread

by Newsweek Pakistan

In notification, health ministry says face coverings mandatory in crowded public places, mosques, bazaars, shopping malls, public transport

Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Services on Saturday issued guidelines for wearing face masks to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, making the practice mandatory in public places.

Last week, the government announced it was easing lockdown restrictions under social distancing guidelines, with Prime Minister Imran Khan saying he had always disagreed with the lockdown, claiming it had increased the suffering of the public.

However, despite warnings from the government that there was a great risk of the virus spreading faster if people ignored the provided standard operating procedures, there have been reports from across the country that shops, mosques and, other businesses have flagrantly violated the guidelines, posing great risk to vulnerable communities.

On Friday morning, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza said the government was making face masks mandatory in public places. Planning Minister Asad Umar echoed this later in the day during a briefing on the government’s coronavirus response.

“Facemasks are mandatory to be worn by everyone in… crowded public places, mosques, bazaars, shopping malls, [and] public transport, including road, rails and flights,” read the government’s notification. It said the decision had been taken as there are many people who test positive for COVID-19 but do not show any symptoms of the disease.

“It is prudent, under the circumstances of the current pandemic, for the people to wear face masks with an intention to protect their fellow beings from droplets of their saliva/sputum particularly when entering closed or congested areas and also to protect themselves,” it said.

According to the instructions issued by the government:

  • a face mask is not a substitute for adopting social distancing and should also be accompanied with frequent hand washing
  • healthcare workers should follow personal protective equipment guidelines and patients should follow their instructions
  • all COVID-19 positive and suspected individuals must wear disposable facemasks to ensure those around them are protected
  • everyone should wear a disposable face mask or any other available facial covering when leaving their homes to protect others as well as themselves
  • once the mask has been worn, it should not be touched while in use. If touched or handled after wearing, then hands must be washed with soap and water or properly sanitized
  • masks should be disposed off properly and replaced if they are soiled or become moist
  • any masks are suitable and N95 masks are only needed in high risk healthcare facilities

Pakistan on Monday recorded its 42,125th confirmed case of COVID-19 with 903 deaths and 11,922 recoveries. It currently has 29,300 active cases, as the government continues to ease restrictions in a bid to boost the country’s struggling economy.

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