With supply of personal protective wear running low all over the world, health officials have urged residents not to wear or buy surgical masks, unless for specific reasons.“The evidence that we have is that if you are healthy and just walking around, you do not need to wear a mask. You only wear a mask if you are ill yourself or working with people who are ill. This is quite important. Masks at the moment are quite a limited resource globally and we are trying to keep this for health workers,” says Dr Beth Engelbrecht, head of health in the Western Cape.“We have been working flat-out for the last two weeks on making sure there is enough gowns, surgical masks and gloves for our staff on the front line who need that when they work with patients.”She adds that seeing people walk around in surgical masks is also worrysome to other residents who are not wearing masks, prompting them to buy masks.“We are appealing to everyone to please use these masks only when indicated and where there is relative risk to these individuals. These masks are very scarce,” says Engelbrecht. The World Health Organisation (Who) has also urged residents to refrain from buying surgical masks, listing specific criteria for wearing them.According to Who, healthy residents should only wear a mask when taking care of a person with suspected Covid-19 infection or if they are coughing or sneezing.The organisation further states the masks are only effective when they are used in conjunction with proper hand hygiene, and must be used correctly. The masks are also disposable and should not be worn again.In doing their bit to decrease the purchase of disposable surgical masks, the City of Cape Town’s health directorate handed out masks to patients at Tafelsig Clinic on Thursday.The masks were handed over to patients by Dr Zahid Badroodien, Mayco member for community services and health.The masks are washable and reusable and come with the following instruction: “This is not a medical mask. Cleaning and good hygiene is essential along with hand washing.”All reusable masks should not be shared, must be washed daily with hot soapy water and should be removed by only touching the elastic bands. Residents should also wash their hands before putting on a mask and after removing one.