Several hospitals in the Antwerp region have moved to ban the wearing of cloth masks due to concerns that they pose a health risk due to a lack of cleaning.
Hospitals (GZA) Antwerp, Wilrijk, Mortsel now all require visitors to wear disposable surgical masks, as fabric ones become a breeding ground for bacteria if not washed enough, VRT reports. A similar measure was also introduced in hospitals in Herentals and Kempen last year.
Speaking on the measures, virologist Marc Van Ranst was totally supportive.
“Surgical masks are a bit better in quality, but that’s not really where the problem lies. The problem is that some people don’t wash those cloth mouth masks or wash them very little,” Van Ranst explains, “and then it’s not so hygienic to walk around with them in a hospital. There are a lot of bacteria on them over time if you don’t wash them regularly.”
What if people do use the surgical (disposable) masks for more than one day? “I think there are few people who keep surgical masks until the next day,” said Van Ranst. “When you use them too long, the rubber bands come loose anyway and you do have to throw them away.”
“Anyone who wears a mask for a whole day must wash it immediately after use,” Raina Ablorh, Infection Prevention Nurse at the University Hospital Ghent, wrote in Het Laatste Nieuws this Tuesday “Someone who only uses it for shopping for half an hour can use it several times. But it’s always better to replace a damaged or too wet mouth mask”.