18 June 2020 - NW1031
Ismail, Ms H to ask the Minister of Health
(1)Whether his department has investigated the effects of wearing masks for long periods of time in view of reports of both adults and children fainting due to wearing the mask for long hours; if not, why not; if so, (2) whether, since it is now mandatory for citizens to wear masks when they leave the house, his department can and will take responsibility for persons who develop adverse health effects due to wearing of the masks for long periods of time; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?
1. No, the Department has not undertaken any investigations on the effects of wearing masks for long periods as there is substantial published research on this important topic. The wearing of cloth masks by the general public for long-periods is commonplace in several countries prior to Covid-19. Similarly, the wearing of surgical masks by healthcare personnel for long periods is standard practice and has been found to be safe. Cloth masks are better tolerated than surgical masks or N95 respirators used by healthcare workers. Fainting may occur when the mask is worn incorrectly such that the nose and mouth are occluded, but as far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no peer-reviewed scientific reports of this. There are anecdotal accounts of people passing out from long-term use of N95 respirators;
2. Wearing of cloth masks has been shown in many reports to reduce community transmission of the virus and therefore is a necessary intervention like hand hygiene and social distancing. The National Department of Health will ensure that whether the person wears a mask or not, anyone in respiratory distress will be provided the best possible care in our healthcare facilities.