Cloth masks don't guarantee protection, says State

Wednesday May 13 2020

As shortage of protective gear for use in prevention of spread coronavirus bites, the government is pleading with the public to avoid buying N95 masks so that there will be sufficient for local healthcare workers.

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In a joint statement by the Ministry of Health and Kenya Bureau of Standards, the government says there is a limited supply of personal protective equipment for health workers, including surgical masks and N95 respirators, and is therefore encouraging the public to leave these masks to the healthcare workers and the patients.

The Ministry of Health is seeking to procure as many N95 masks as possible for healthcare workers to bridge the gap since they are among one of the groups at risk for contracting Covid-19.

“These are masks specifically intended for the use of healthcare workers because these are the persons who ware on the frontline, exposed to persons with Covid-19 and be most at risk,” the statement said.

“Following the government’s requirement that individuals going to public places must wear facemasks, the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the Ministry of Health wish to provide the following information as guidance to the public on the use of the surgical masks and other facial coverings.


“For surgical masks, health caregivers and patients in medical facilities are advised to use masks that have been certified by Kebs.  Kindly note that there is a limited supply of PPEs for health workers including surgical masks and N95 respirators. The general public is encouraged to leave these masks to the healthcare workers and the patients. “

The statement signed by Dr Patrick Amoth, acting Director-General, Ministry of Health, and Bernard Njiraini, Managing Director Kebs, states that reusable cloth coverings made of woven fabrics may offer limited protection against droplets.

“Noting that currently there is no Kenya standard for these types of covering, certification for re-usable cloth coverings is currently not a mandatory requirement prior to sale. However, the general public must take caution that such cloth coverings do not guarantee protection against ovid-19,” it states.

They advised the public to wash the re-usable face masks with soap and water before use.

Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe, announced that the country has started producing its own protective gear and that it is in talks with motor companies in the country to produce ventilators.

Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma has since donated PPEs to all African countries twice respectively.

The first shipment arrived on March 23 with 20,000 laboratory diagnostic test kits, 100,000 medical masks, and 1000 protective suits and face shields.

The second donation to 54 countries in Africa included 500 ventilators, 200,000 suits and face shields, 2,000 thermometers, one million swabs and extractions kits and 500,000 gloves.

The World Health Organisation has warned that shortages of personal protective equipment could leave frontline health workers at risk of contracting the disease.

“The chronic global shortage of personal protective equipment is now one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives. When health workers are at risk, we are all at risk. Health workers in low and middle-income countries deserve the same protection as those in the wealthiest countries,” says World Health Organisation’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom.

Kenya is now seeking to produce some of these items locally as the global shortage may make it difficult to import them.

“There are more than 50 companies that are capable of providing some of these medical inputs. We started with sanitisers. Our textile sector has confirmed that they have that capacity [to produce],” says Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Industrialisation Betty Maina.