Sri Lanka College of Microbiologists as the professional body dealing with Infection Prevention and Control measures in hospitals would like to express the following on this communique by Sri Lanka Police.
The Sri Lanka College of Microbiologists is not against any member of public wearing a mask on a voluntary basis provided the use of the mask is done correctly and does not increase the possibility of virus transmission to the mask user or to anyone else.
- We would like to express that scientific evidence shows that transmission of COVID 19 through the respiratory route occurs only if any person spends more than 15 minutes in a confined space with an infected person.
- Contact with an infected person for a few minutes in an open space (such as occurs at a police check point) does not lead to an exposure as given above. In addition, in the open air, dilutional effects also reduce the risk of exposure to virus. Police officers wearing a mask correctly will further reduce the risk of exposure and thereby transmission.
- Correct use of a face mask includes cover of face from the bridge of the nose to below the chin.
- A surgical mask or cloth mask could be used for this purpose. Handkerchiefs, scarves and other pieces of cloth do not serve the required function of the mask.
- Masks must also be either discarded or cloth masks need to be sterilized by boiling before reuse and should not be used for over an 8 hour period at a time.
- They should also be replaced if they become damp or damaged.
There are several reasons why compulsory use of masks could result in difficulties for both police and the general public.
- The main mode of transmission of COVID 19 is via respiratory droplets by direct or indirect contact – ie: respiratory droplets from an infected person directly falling on the face of a person (mouth, nose, eyes) or on different surfaces which are then transmitted through the hands of an individual person to the mouth, nose, eyes, including the outside of the mask.
We would suggest that for the protection of the police officers at check points, they follow the instructions below.
- Wear the provided mask correctly at all times during duty
- Try to maintain a distance of at least one meter from any commuter while on duty
- Remember that surfaces they touch – vehicle surfaces, documents – could be contaminated by the virus. Therefore, disinfect hands using alcohol based hand rubs after contact with such surfaces.
- Do not touch their masks or their face (as they could transfer virus on their hands to their face – mouth, nose, eyes).
- Combining the face mask (if not of good quality) with a face shield will improve the protection
- In the current situation, many people will find it difficult to obtain a mask and use it as described in c) above.
- If wearing a mask is made compulsory, this could hamper people from coming to buy essential supplies.
- Improper use may result in increased transmission of the virus.
- Wearing a mask may interfere with identification of a person
We highly appreciate the dedicated services rendered by Sri Lanka Police and armed forces in this fight against the pandemic of COVID19.