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A worker sews face masks in Johannesburg. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL/THE SUNDAY TIMES
A worker sews face masks in Johannesburg. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL/THE SUNDAY TIMES

Covid-19 brought with it at least one positive change, as everyone entering a hospital was required to wear a mask, which protected people from tuberculosis (TB) and flu. Now health minister Joe Paahla and his team have removed the mask requirement.

I totally disagree with the minister. Face coverings inside health facilities must remain in place to help prevent the spread of TB from undiagnosed patients.

Take the example of a 40-year-old construction worker who was complaining of being tired and coughing for more than a week. He had seen several private doctors. Antibiotics did not seem to help.

He came into the overcrowded casualty ward at a local hospital on a Sunday morning, and had to wait more than three hours in a room with about 60 others, as the clinic was busy with trauma cases.

Sputum tests for TB were eventually taken and chest X-rays done. After two days the results showed he had TB. This patient was not wearing a face covering as it was not required by law pre-Covid-19, so at least 60 patients who were waiting with him were exposed. 

Everyone who is in a clinic, hospital, hospice or old age centre should continue to wear a mask. I won’t see a patient who is not wearing a face covering. I carry a spare one at all times and give it to any patient who needs it.

Face masks are Covid-19’s gift to humanity. Let’s not throw that gift away.

Dr Lucas Ntyintyane
Via email

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