THE Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia (PSZ) has demanded for an apology from Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya over his remarks that Zambians should avoid listening to lunatics who are discouraging them from using cloth face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And Society president, Jerome Kanyika, has insisted that cloth face masks have zero percent protection against COVID-19 unless people wearing them follow other guidelines that have been put in place like washing hands, social distancing, among others.
In an interview with Radio Phoenix News, Monday, Kanyika expressed concern that cloth face masks that people were making to protect themselves from COVID-19 had zero percent protection.
Kanyika argued that there was no scientific evidence to show that cloth face masks could prevent COVID-19 and that different research conducted indicated that the masks had zero percent protection against the virus.
But at a briefing on Monday, Dr Chilufya urged Zambians to avoid listening to lunatics who were discouraging them from using cloth face masks in the prevention of COVID-19.
“I want to use this opportunity to assure those of you who may have read toxic articles like an article from Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia about face masks. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have glorified that comment with a response but due to the gravity of the situation, I will say, if you read a beautiful article done by the America Centre for Disease Control that talks about the efficacy of a mask made of cloth, then you will know that this is evidence based, it’s science based and just mask up and avoid listening to lunatics. Make sure that you use a cloth mask, and make sure that you use a mask which is surgical,” said Dr Chilufya.
But reacting to this in an interview, Kanyika demanded for an apology from the minister, saying the “lunatics” remarks were unacceptable coming from a leader.
“I’m also demanding for an apology from the minister for calling pharmacists lunatics when we just differ in terms of science belief. That’s unacceptable. We were not expecting such words to come from our leaders, like the minister. The minister is considered as a father of all the professions and he is supposed to show parenthood to everyone and bring them on board [in the fight against COVID-19],” he said.
Kanyika further insisted that cloth face masks had zero per cent protection against COVID-19 unless people wearing them followed other guidelines that had been put in place like washing hands, social distancing, and others.
“I’m still insisting that there is zero protection [for face cloth masks]. Unless other guidelines that are being put in place are followed. Putting on a face mask is going to create a false sense of security to an individual. As a result, he or she is going to become careless and stop observing the key basis guidelines of washing hands, social distancing and avoiding unnecessary essential travels. These are the basic rules that we are using in the fight against Covid-19 and this is what has been applied in all the countries. If people put on those [cloth] face masks and observe the other rules that are there, they can atleast be assured of protecting themselves,” he said.
“But we should very careful to not create a false sense of security to the members of the public and make them mingle, or be in other places and say ‘I have a cloth face mask, so I’m protected and cannot get the virus’. That will be very risky and we will have a lot of new cases as a result of the same.”
Kanyika observed that in other countries where people also wore masks, officials went further to inform the public that the masks would not protect them, but the next person.
“On April 6, this year, WHO issued a comprehensive statement or guidelines over the face masks. And one of the issue which was discussed was cloth face masks and other face masks that people are using. On the cloth face mask, the fact which we all know very well is that yes they have zero prevention against the virus. In other countries where there are these issues of calling for members of the public to wear face masks, they go further and tell them to say “these face masks will not protect you but will protect the next person”. But we are not telling our people that. And the studies are not yet conclusive,” said Kanyika.
“CDC (America Centre for Disease Control) made that decision (efficacy of a mask made of cloth) basically when they saw that they have shortages of face masks world wide and they wanted to preserve the limited face masks which were in the United States to the health workers. No wonder they had to loosen up in terms of the regulations for members of the public to put on the cloth face masks, while surgical face masks are kept for health workers who are on a daily basis dealing with COVID-19 patients.”