Masks won't protect without social distancing, warns Turkey's pandemic board member

Professor Hasan Tezer, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, warned on Sunday that masks without filters provide less protection against the deadly infection. “Masks do not protect us 100%. If we don’t abide by social distancing rules for more than 15 minutes, infection is inevitable even if both persons wear masks,” he warned.

Health authorities repeatedly remind the public to adhere to social distancing rules, wear protective masks and heed hygiene standards against the outbreak. Failure to wear a mask in public is subject to fines, and the country has decreased the price of single-use masks. “It is great that masks are cheaper and their production increased. But we should be careful. Even if it has three layers, masks do not protect us all the time. If it does not have a filter in the middle, it won’t provide any protection,” Tezer told Demirören News Agency (DHA). The professor said even if all parties are wearing masks, if social distancing is not observed there is a considerable risk of infection if the conversation lasts more than 15 minutes. He also urged the public to check to see if their masks have filters. “You should examine if it can be torn apart easily and how solid its filter is. A mask with a good filter would not be torn apart easily,” he pointed out.

Masks, social distancing and hygiene rules are Turkey’s only weapon against the deadly pandemic in the absence of a vaccine. The country saw a significant rise in the number of patients, fatalities and those in critical condition last week.

Tezer says masks should be changed after four hours at most. “You have to remove and dump it when it gets wet or dirty. You cannot use the same mask for days. If you have been to a crowded place, you should immediately dump it when you return home. Masks can protect you but when you pass by someone with the virus coughing, the virus can stick on the outer surface of the mask,” he warned.

RESTRICTION WARNING

President , who addressed an online meeting of branches of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on Sunday, said Turkey can reverse the surge in the number of patients in a few weeks if people comply with the measures. “Otherwise, we will continue restrictions and can even be forced to impose additional measures,” he warned.

Turkey this week introduced partial weekend curfews for the first time in months. The first countrywide curfew began as of 8 p.m. local time on Saturday and ended at 10 a.m. Sunday. A nighttime curfew was also in effect between 8 p.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday. Schools will remain shut for the remainder of the first semester, with students switching exclusively to online education. Restaurants and cafes are barred from hosting customers and only allowed to provide delivery and takeout orders. Apart from nighttime curfews, senior citizens who are 65 and older and those 20 and younger are barred from going outdoors except between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., respectively.

The restrictions come at a time when the number of active patients reached 57,761 in one week with an increase of 8,653 over the last week. The total number of patients now stands at more than 440,000. With more than 800 deaths, fatalities rose to 12,219 since the outbreak began in Turkey in March.

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