The wearing of face masks has been recommended by the World Health Organization as one of the effective safety protocols in fighting against the contraction, infection, and the spread of the coronavirus. However, caution must be exercised in using it as protective gear against the coronavirus. Wrong use of the face mask is likely to expose the wearer to the coronavirus infection. In Ghana, there have been several wrong uses of the face masks caused by cultural barriers and infodemics in the country. This article throws a spotlight on these cultural barriers and infodemics to it’s wrong use. Also, it discusses reasons why the general populace must dispel these infodemics about the use of the face masks in the prevention of COVID-19 infection.
Culturally, Ghanaians extol good manners such as showing respect to the elderly in the society as well as demonstrating respect to those in authority. People who fail to show respect to the elderly, as well as people in authority, are viewed as social deviants. Such persons are objects of social isolation and stigma in the Ghanaian society. Therefore, every Ghanaian citizen strives to earn the goodwill of others, especially, his or her communal members, by displaying respect, humility, and dignity toward the elderly and those in authority. Unfortunately, there has been a growing infodemic on the lowering of face masks among some Ghanaian people in the quest of showing respect to the elderly and those in leadership positions as cultural demands. It has been noted among some students in Ghanaian institutions that they deliberately pull it down below the chin while speaking to their teachers and/or heads of institutions as a sign of respect. Security personnel also pull down their face masks while speaking to their superiors and managers. Likewise, some church congregants also lower them down while standing before their religious leaders. This attitude of lowering one’s face mask to the chin of the face may be motivated by the cultural requirement of showing respect to the elderly and those in authority by taking off one’s hat, slippers, and bowing down the entire body. This condition is detrimental to the health of the wearer who deliberately pulls it down as a sign of respect. This attitude exposes the nostrils and mouth of the wearer, making it easy for the droplets of the coronavirus from an infected superior or elderly person to infect the person. Therefore, the wearing of a face mask must be maintained at all times while speaking to the elderly, a superior officer, or a religious leader. This is crucial for the prevention against the coronavirus. Other forms are culturally accepted in Ghana in showing respect towards those in authority and the elderly in society. These include using decorum in speech, and standing on one’s feet while an elderly person or a person in authority is speaking and/or in one’s midst. Therefore, public health officers and the COVID-19 response team must sensitize the general Ghanaian populace on the need to maintain worn masks all the time, without pulling it down as a sign of showing respect.
Another infodemic that is spreading rapidly among the Ghanaian populace is that the wearer of a face mask can momentarily pull it down to take fresh air and then pull it back. Some Ghanaians, especially, market women and traders claim the face mask makes it difficult for them to breathe. Such persons have been influenced by the misinformation in the public space that it is not wrong pulling down the face mask below the nose to breathe in fresh air for a few seconds. This is dangerous to the health of the wearer as it makes it easy for the coronavirus droplets of an infected person to travel easily through the nostrils to contract an infection. Public health education in Ghana must sensitize the general public on this infodemic that can contribute to the spread of the coronavirus infection.
As the world continues it’s battle against the deadly coronavirus global pandemic, there is the need for everyone to exercise caution and follow meticulously, all the preventive protocols from trusted health bodies and agencies such as from the website of the World Health Organization. The face masks should be worn at all times and must never be pulled down as a cultural sign of respect or to take in fresh air momentarily. These infodemics must be avoided and campaigned against to avoid needless contraction of the coronavirus in Ghana.