As the nationwide lockdown is eased, people are venturing back out to work, school and the shops. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging, it is more important than ever to take precautions against spreading infection. Wear a mask, maintain social distancing and wash your hands regularly with soap.

When it comes to wearing a mask, there are several common mistakes that many people make, which can undermine the whole point of wearing a mask.

Here are five tips to ensure that you get maximum protection:

  • Get the fit right. The mask should sit on the bridge of your nose (not balanced on the tip). It should cover your nose, mouth and extend over your chin. The mask should fit snugly, without billowing out at the sides or leaving obvious gaps. Don’t leave your nose sticking out, as you will still be able to inhale (and exhale) infectious droplets.
  • Wash your hands before putting your mask on, and again before taking it off. Use soap and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. This prevents your hands from contaminating your mask, and vice-versa.
  • Don’t touch your mask while wearing it. This is one of the most common mistakes that many people make, which can undermine the whole point of wearing a mask. When removing it, use the loops to take it off, rather than touching the fabric or the front of the mask.
  • Don’t pull your mask down to rest on your chin or around your neck (or up onto your forehead). You’re obviously not protected while it is in this position, and it may become contaminated.
  • Wash your mask frequently with hot water and detergent and allow it to dry completely. Don’t wear it when wet. Also, don’t wear the same mask for long periods or repeat occasions without washing it thoroughly in between, and always store it in a clean, dry place.
  • Finally, remember that while wearing a mask correctly can help to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it’s not a fail safe. It is still possible to become infected. To stay safe, avoid going out unnecessarily and try to keep a distance of at least 2m between yourself and others. And remember to get in the habit of washing your hands with soap regularly and well, as this is an important way to prevent the spread of disease.


Dr Susan Louw,  pathologist at the National Health Laboratory Service

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Read more on dealing with the stress of homeschooling and sending your child back to school during Covid-19.