Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has recommended that South Africans start wearing cloth masks to help limit the spread of Covid-19, rather than using medical masks reserved for healthcare workers.
"Wearing masks is important. We want to recommend widespread use of masks. We are recommending that people use cloth masks and just make sure there's a three layer kind of thing," he said during a briefing on Friday.
Mkhize said wearing a mask in public places can help slow the spread of the coronavirus, but that other hygiene measures were also crucial.
"Even when wearing a mask, hand-washing and social distancing remain the most important interventions to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
"Cloth masks are easy and not expensive to make, reusable and help reduce the transmission of Covid-19 by acting like a shield to contain the respiratory droplets through which the virus spreads," said Mkhize.
He said the purpose of masks is to reduce droplets that come out of the mouth or nose during speaking, coughing and sneezing.
"Avoid touching the mask or your face while you are out and when you get back home, wash the mask with soap and water immediately without using chemicals and wash your hands again.
"After washing masks they should be ironed or left out in the sun to dry. You should not share your mask with anybody else, and it is preferable that every person has two masks so they can be interchanged during washes.
"Remember not to handle the inside layer of the mask when taking it off or putting it on," Mkhize said.
He also called on members of the public to refrain from using medical masks.
"The public should not wear medical masks. These are reserved as personal protective equipment for our healthcare workers, who are on the front line of our battle against Covid-19.
"Our healthcare workers need medical grade masks and respirators to stay healthy so they can save the lives of people who have Covid-19. Let us give them the tools to fight that battle," he said.