COVID-19 :  Cloth or Surgical Facemask; the realities – By  Dr. Noimot Abisola Balogun


Why home made cloth Facemask?


Without trying to counter established research evidence, the N95 facemasks have been shown to be the most effective against viral spread filtering put about 0.3 microns of particles or larger.


Similar but lower reviews have been said about the surgical masks commonly worn in many health facilities.


The surgical masks as highlighted by research reduce the spread of droplets infection to a very great extent compared with home made masks.

But the question is…

In our realities, our situations of depending on aids, donations; our realities of underutilised local manufacturing and dependence on importation….how long will the use of surgical FACEMASKS last among our people who even defy lockdown due to hunger?

Already, because of the demand and hike in price, some elements have been caught on video, washing used FACEMASKS to go and resell. Many more bad practices will crop up if we made ONLY surgical masks compulsory.

I follow the realist rule which is one of the strategies employed in many public health intervention. Take for example….

In an outreach in a developed country, there may be a portable mammogram kit to screen women for breast cancer. This may not be that easy in developing communities.

The health professionals in those communities may need to perfect their art of breast examination to screen their women. Have they screened? Yes they have; maybe not to a better level than the developed counterparts but they have.

This is why I also support Lagos State Cloth Facemask initiative.

With this, almost everyone (if used well) will be able to AT LEAST put something to cover. Therefore with social distancing , regular handwashing, not touching surfaces anyhow; the risk will be reduced far more than when we wait for everyone to have a surgical mask and they give excuses that they do not have money to do such.

Surgical mask for ALL

-is not economical (it has gone up from 3k to 15k);

-may lead to scarcity and frontline health workers who need it most will have to start looking for them;

-surgical masks are to be disposed after one single use. If you enforce it, people will begin to keep it for many more uses which in turn can promote infection.

With cloth Facemask, the conductors, the hawkers, the beggars can use WHILE the elites who have the money to buy disposable Facemasks at 15k can use theirs.

At the end of the day, it is a near WIN-WIN.

So now that we have gotten the realities behind the cloth mask, can we now look at the qualities to look for?

Things to look out for when getting a face mask.

1) it must fit comfortably against the  side of your face. Air should not easily go out by the sides. This is the wisdom behind the flame test. If no air is going out, then blowing can put off the candle.

2) it must be comfortable, so material should be of ease to the user.

3) it must have multiple layers of fabric. (Analysts have mentioned at least 3 layers if the lining is added)

4) you must be able to breathe without restrictions

5) you must be able to wash and sundry and it it still in good shape after washing.

Please note: that though cloth Facemask does not give the best protection, it however IF USED  by all can offer the mass protection to even begin to FLATTEN the curve.

You have money for surgical masks? Great; buy for yourself and families.

You don’t have such money? Great, do yourself good and get the cloth FACEMASKS.

At all at all, na im bad…

  • Dr Noimot Abisola Balogun is a Public health communicator and social researcher. She writes from





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