Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu had earlier warned the leadership of various unions to educate their members on the use of face masks as violators would be dealt with. His warning statement could be said to be directed to Lagos State commercial bus drivers and their bus conductors, yet the duo are the ones guilty of inappropriate use of face masks.
When asked why they prefer to hang the face mask below their chin instead of using it to cover their nose and mouth so as to prevent the spread of coronavirus, a bus conductor, Sunday Enumah said ;
“I don’t have coronavirus and I cannot spread it, I only put this on so that I will not be arrested by the taskforce but I cannot use it to cover my mouth because it will hinder me from raising my voice loud to call passengers into my bus, you know my voice will not be loud enough for my passengers to hear me whenever I call the next bus stop.”
Also a commercial bus driver who plies Ikorodu Road, Mr Tajudeen Adefemi said;
“I have a face mask, but it is not convenient for me to cover my nose and mouth every time am on the steering because this mask do prevent me from breathing very well and even hinder me from being able to talk very loud so that my conductor can hear me from behind. Again, whenever I use the face mask I always feel weak and uncomfortable.”
Passengers are also guilty of inappropriate use of face masks.
A passenger at Ojota bus stop in Lagos State, who simply want to be identified as Abimbola said;
“Let us admit the fact that wearing a face mask is not comfortable. They can hurt your ears. If you are cursed with allergies, they can become a sneezing mess, and they make breathing difficult. Each time I put it on appropriately, I always feel hot and do feel as if I have been enclosed in a small compartment. Moreover, this face mask is not good for someone who is asthmatic.”
The initial warning statement of CP Odumosu has supposedly prompted the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), to make sure that all its members have a face mask; but the inappropriate use of the mask is synonymous to not having one.
A public affair analyst, Mr. Owolabi Adesina, explained that commercial bus drivers and their conductors need not only to be educated on the use of face mask but drastic measures need to be taken immediately to punish them if they do not desist from hanging the mask on their chin.
Adesina said; “It is important to also sensitize the public on the mode of wearing the face mask. The mask should cover the mouth and nose. The essence is to prevent fluid from one person from getting to another. Since they have discovered that asymptomatic carriers can spread COVID-19, masks help reduce the spread of coronavirus when used by everybody. No one knows who the carrier of the virus is, that’s why Lagos State government makes it mandatory for everyone in a public place to make use of a mask. The issue of commercial bus conductors needs to be attended to immediately because those guys are in a better position to spread the virus. They are always in contact with everyone that boarded their bus. They interact with people without keeping to the two meters social distance rules.”
Unfortunately, passengers are not excluded from this unfortunate behavior. Some passengers who do not hang the face mask on their chin are seen holding it in their hands and will make use of it when approaching a premises where the use of face masks is strictly in enforcement. “Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water,” WHO said. The implication is that passengers who have not washed their hands will use their contaminated hand to infect the mask and if they eventually wear the mask, it will infect them.
Face masks may accumulate COVID-19 virus and other pathogens if they become wet with saliva or sweat also it may become a growth environment for bacteria and other pathogens. In the case of commercial bus operators, face masks can further accumulate irritant dust, silica or other respiratory health hazards to both the driver and the conductors. Lagos State Government should therefore establish a Task Force who would monitor and enforce the use of face masks within the commercial bus operators and not just leave its enforcement to NURTW task force, who have tried their best in ensuring that all their workers have a face mask in their possession and also enforce that they wear the face masks appropriately.
By Ife Adewole