ISLAMABAD, Jun 2 (APP):The Ministry of National Health Services on Tuesday asked citizens to follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on face masks to prevent from COVID-19 in prevailing high-risk situation.

According to an official of the ministry, the government has made wearing mask compulsory for people as virus toll is increasing throughout the country due to negligence of citizens and violation of such SOPs.

He said that face masks are mandatory to be worn by everyone in situations including crowded public places, Mosque, bazaars, shopping malls and public transport including road, rails and flights.

He said that under these SOPs all COVID-19 positive and suspected individuals have been asked to wear disposable face masks to ensure that others around them are protected from droplets generated by the positive person while breathing, talking, coughing or sneezing.

Once the mask is worn, it is part of the face and it must not be touched with hands throughout its use. If touched or handled after wearing, then hands must be washed with soap and water or sanitized with an alcohol-based hand rub according to the guidelines of hand hygiene, he added.

He said that as per these SOPs people must wear face masks to protect their fellow beings from droplets of their saliva or sputum particularly when entering closed or congested areas and also to protect themselves.

The official said that all individuals should wear a disposable face mask or any other available face mask including cloth mask on leaving their home with the intention of protecting others with whom they may come in close contact and also for their own protection.

As per SOPs the mask should be replaced with a new one when it gets soiled or becomes moist while the soiled disposable mask should be disposed of properly and the reusable one should be placed in a sealable polythene bag and placed in a dedicated pocket of the dress or in a dedicated pocket of a washable handbag, he said.

The pocket of the dress or the bag, in which a soiled mask was saved, should not be used or handled for any other purpose before washing. N95 mask is only needed in high risk healthcare facilities by the health workers and is beneficial only when worn with special precautions and appropriate procedures, he added.

He said that a regular disposable face mask, which is also called a surgical face mask or a medical face mask is considered as one of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) of a healthcare worker.

It is also used in the healthcare settings to cover the face of a patient, from whom spread of a communicable infection is a possibility and many countries have adopted this as a national guideline, he added.

It is pertinent to remember that use of ordinary face mask is not a substitute for adoption of social distancing and at no time distancing be abandoned wherever required in addition to regular hand washing with soap and water, he added.

He added in a healthcare setting, all the healthcare workers should follow the guidelines for wearing PPE while patients should follow the advice of their doctors.