Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of NCDC, made this known in a statement made available to newsmen on Tuesday in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the first World Mask Week (WMW), slated for Aug. 7 to Aug.14, aims at reinforcing the importance of wearing a facemask to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The initiative was from a coalition of organisations including the Pandemic Action Network (PAN), World Health Organisation, Africa CDC and private companies working to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 globally.

Ihekweazu said that in the absence of a vaccine that could prevent infection, and as COVID-19 cases increases globally, citizens must depend on non-pharmaceutical measures to protect themselves.

He listed the non-pharmaceutical measures to include: the use of facemasks, handwashing, physical distancing and supportive management of confirmed cases to mitigate the impact of the disease.

Ihekweazu said that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Federal Ministry of Health, NCDC and partner organisations within the country, would run activities for WMW.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire [NCDC]
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire [NCDC]

He listed such activities to include: awareness campaigns in communities and media features nationwide to sensitise Nigerians on the importance of wearing facemasks to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Ihekweazu further said that the campaign on social media would also feature the hashtags #MaskOnNigeria, #MaskingForAFriend and #TakeResponsibility.

The director-general said: “Studies have shown that the correct use of facemasks is critical to reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection.

The WMW movement encourages people and businesses around the world to rally behind the importance of wearing a facemask properly, not only during WMW, but daily until a vaccine that can prevent the infection is readily accessible to all citizens.’’

Ihekweazu emphasised that the use of masks was a key component of Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) procedures in medical and non-medical settings.

“Given the widespread community transmission of COVID-19, strict adherence to the use of masks in public spaces, particularly, where physical distancing may not be practical, can help slow the spread of the virus.

“Only strong partnerships could fight the pandemic.

“The WMW is a timely campaign that shows what can be achieved when governments, private sector and individuals come together to push a simple yet important action by reinforcing the need of wearing a facemask.

“We are prioritising IPC on the global agenda, demonstrating the role that everyone has to play, protecting each other, saving lives and slowing the spread of COVID-19 globally,’’ he said.

Ihekweazu said that NCDC, as part of its efforts to strengthen IPC in health facilities, would continue to prioritise the training of health workers and timely supply of Personal Protective Equipment including, facemasks to state facilities.

He said that NCDC would continue to provide periodic advisories on facemask usage, including the making and care of reusable cloth masks.

Also, Dr Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health, said: “We are glad to join this global campaign to educate Nigerians on the importance of wearing a facemask.

“The appropriate use of facemask is one of the comprehensive non-pharmaceutical preventive and control measures adopted to limit the spread of COVID-19 by preventing respiratory droplet transmission.”

Ehanire added that masks could also be used by healthy persons to reduce exposure.