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Jakarta Post

N95 masks are overkill against coronavirus, Health Ministry official suggests

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, February 11, 2020   /   01:25 pm
N95 masks are overkill against coronavirus, Health Ministry official suggests Medics show how to wear masks correctly at Pekalongan Station, Pekalongan, Central Java, Thursday (02/06/2020). (Antara/Harviyan Perdana Putra)

As people across the country rush to stock up on masks due to concerns over the novel coronavirus spread, the Health Ministry has suggested that using N95 masks to prevent infection might be overkill.

“The N95 mask is not designed as a health mask. It is designed to be used within a laboratory,” said Achmad Yurianto, the secretary of the ministry’s Disease Control and Environmental Health Directorate General as quoted by Antara.

N95-type masks tightly cover the nose and mouth and can filter 95 percent of dust particles from the air to keep them out of the wearer’s respiratory system. They are also more expensive than ordinary surgical masks and are believed to provide more protection from the virus.

He added that people might find it hard to breathe if they wore N95 masks for 30 minutes in a room filled with clean air. Hence, an ordinary surgical mask used by doctors and nurses at the hospital should be enough to avoid a coronavirus infection.

Read also: In anxious Jakarta, box of face masks worth more than gram of gold

“As long as we use it correctly, a [surgical] mask is enough protection from the virus or bacteria,” Achmad said.

Although Indonesia has yet to confirm any case of infection, people in Jakarta have rushed to buy N95 masks, driving prices up to Rp 1.3 million (US$94.61) for a box containing 20 masks. In early January, such a box would be sold for around Rp 200,000. Some sellers have also run out of the mask due to a significant increase in demand.

He went on to say that the masks should be used mainly by sick people to prevent the spread of the virus while coughing. The mask also protects healthy people from being infected while in public places.

The official reminded people to use the mask correctly by making sure it covered the nose and mouth. Most viruses and bacterial infections go through the mucosa in the nose and mouth; therefore, people should not touch their mouth or nose with dirty hands. (hol)