Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – The Health Ministry has called on the public to use only masks that actually protect them against the coronavirus, explaining that not all masks are made equal.
The ministry's disease control and prevention general director, Achmad Yurianto, said in a statement issued on Monday that three types of masks were specifically designed to prevent the wearer from transmitting and contracting diseases, including COVID-19.
"One is the N95 mask, a standard-issue mask typically worn by health workers who directly handle viruses in the laboratory. The others are the surgical mask and cloth mask," said Achmad.
However, he noted that it was highly advisable to add an extra layer inside of a cloth mask to ensure a higher degree of protection.
Furthermore, a cloth mask may only be used for a maximum of three hours, at which point the wearer must replace the mask, given that the material tends to absorb droplets from the mouth, he added.
Achmad went on to advise the public against wearing masks made of neoprene fabric – often marketed as "scuba" masks – as well as multifunctional headwear or buff masks. "[Scuba and buff masks] do not meet the [health] requirements."
According to the ministry, the chance of COVID-19 contagion might be reduced to as low as 1.5 percent when both the virus carrier and a healthy individual wear masks.
The ministry's mask-wearing policy has previously become a major point of contention, however, when Minister Terawan Agus Putranto initially only advised sick people to wear masks amid the rush of panic-buying at the onset of the pandemic.
At the time of writing, the ministry's office in Kuningan, South Jakarta is the largest virus cluster in the capital.