UIRI’s COVer Masks

The greatest anxiety of COVID starts in how it spreads and the cliché that ‘prevention is better than cure’ serves well when it comes to curbing the Corona Virus. The Uganda Industrial Research Institute has made its strategy around prevention targeting product efficiency including producing a high performing fabric face mask that has up to 94.4 percent filtration efficiency. Meaning the mask can protect one by eliminating a big percentage of airborne infections.

COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout, or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in.

In response to the global Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), there has been increasing recommendation for the wearing of masks in community settings, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. The World Health Organization (WHO) therefore guides, that only three types of masks are recommended: surgical (which filter 95% of 3 μm particles), FFP2 (which filter 94% of 0.6 μm particles), and fabric masks made to category 1 standards.

WHO further guides that the fabric face masks, should be three layered made of an inner absorbent material such as cotton, a non-absorbent fabric such as polyester outside, and a middle filter layer, such as non-woven spun bond polypropylene and, the filtration, breathability, and fit of the mask are very important.

Uganda, currently facing a deadly second wave has directed mandatory wearing of masks to protect against transmission of SARS-COV-2. The MoH therefore in its guidelines on the use of masks, encourages the community to use non-medical masks (masks made out of fabrics e.g. cotton masks) which are reusable and affordable.

Early last year when the whole world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, UIRI was quick to come up with interventions to mitigate the spread of the virus. One of the Interventions was the development of a 3-layer face mask (uiriCOVer), in conformity with the WHO category 1 standard for fabric face masks.

The high quality, reusable mask, is a product of concerted research by the institutes’ scientists and is made of cotton, polyester and a double polypropylene filter to enhance protection. The masks which have a filtration efficiency of 94.4%, with good breathability, design and fit, is UNBS certified and Ministry of Health (MoH) has been one of our clients.

The Institute went on to establish a textile, polymer and materials laboratory at its Machining, Manufacturing and Industrial Skills Development Centre in Namanve where the determination of mask efficacy is being undertaken. An analysis conducted to evaluate the efficiency of locally sold fabric face masks to filter a model bacteria Staphylococcus aureus has shown that not all fabric masks offer the same level of filtration.