KARACHI: Criticism by medical professionals over the reported misuse of personal protective equipment (PPE) by politicians prom­pted President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday to clarify that an N-95 mask he was seen wearing was given to him during his visit to China.

“As a Dr [doctor] I am strongly aware of misuse & wastage. I was re-using the N-95 mask that was given to me in China. Finally its strap broke y/day so in next mtng @ WingCmdr Noman Akram Shaheed’s house you see me wearing regular public mask. I hope my clarification finds equal billing,” he said in a tweet on Thursday.

According to a Dawn.com report, Dr Alvi’s clarification came after photos and videos of him wearing the N-95 mask at a meeting sparked criticism among medical professionals who claimed that PPE was being “misused” by politicians. On Wednesday, Dr Alvi — wearing the N-95 mask — chaired a briefing session by the Punjab government regarding coronavirus at the Civil Secretariat in Lahore. He had also addressed the participants on the occasion.

According to some, this was particularly problematic as the government has been convincing people that only health professionals deputed in quarantine centres and isolation wards should wear N-95 masks.

The president had on Wednes­day paid a visit to the house of Wing Commander Nouman Akram, who was martyred in a crash last month.

Amid widespread criticism of Dr Alvi, the Pakistan Medical Association had issued a statement that politicians and bureaucrats should not wear N-95 masks.

“The PMA has observed that protective items requi­red for healthcare providers working for coronavirus or non-coronavirus patients are being misused. Particu­larly, the misuse of N-95 masks has been observed by a large number of PMA members and the general public,” the statement had said.

“These days politicians and bureaucrats are often seen wearing N-95 masks during meetings and visits, whereas health professionals are facing a dire shortage of N-95 masks and PPEs.

“This is important to note that N-95 masks are not necessary for everybody. They are only needed in quarantine and isolation facilities for health providers treating coronavirus patients, who are at the highest risk of acquiring coronavirus. Doctors should be protected as they are frontline soldiers against coronavirus.”

PMA secretary general Dr Qaisar Sajjad had said there were different types of masks available for healthcare providers and the general public.

“The general public can use handmade washable masks, which should be washed every day. Surgical masks are for healthcare workers who are treating non-corona patients at primary care level and during surgeries,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020