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Jakarta Post

Cloth masks alternative to prevent COVID-19 transmission, doctor says

  • Ivany Atina Arbi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, April 1, 2020   /   06:04 pm
Cloth masks alternative to prevent COVID-19 transmission, doctor says Clothing designer Nelson Jimenez assembles a face mask in a new business venture with his partner Stalina Svieykowsky in response to the coronavirus outbreak in San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela on March 18. (REUTERS/Carolina Cabral)

Cloth masks can be used by members of the general public as an alternative way to prevent COVID-19 transmission, as long as those wearing such masks maintain a minimum distance of 1 meter from people in public places.

Erlina Burhan, a health expert from COVID-19 referral center Persahabatan Hospital in Jakarta, said a cloth mask could catch droplets coming from its wearer's mouth. However, such masks are not as effective as their surgical and N95 counterparts in preventing smaller particles from getting through.

She went on to suggest that healthy people wear cloth masks as a preventive measure, rather than using surgical face masks, which are intended to be worn by surgeons or sick people.

Read also: COVID-19: Textile factories face hurdles as they switch to producing medical gear

"If healthy people are hoarding surgical masks, there will be no more masks for medical workers and sick people. This is dangerous, because the sick ones can be the source of disease transmission,” Erlina explained on Wednesday.

A massive face mask and hand sanitizer shortage has hit several regions in the country as people have hoarded both products to prevent being infected by COVID-19.

Authorities have caught several people stockpiling and reselling the products for almost 10 times the original price. A box containing 50 surgical face masks can now cost around Rp 400.000 (US$24.02), compared to Rp 35,000 per box prior to the outbreak.