Covid Confusion: Do masks really protect you from the Covid-19 pandemic?

Just like WHO, the Indian gov’t says only specific people need to wear a mask, however a doctor at the epicenter of Covid-19 in Wuhan, says something different

KarnatakaImage Courtesy:

After the Karnataka government issued an advisory saying ‘everyone need not wear a mask’ and the Central and other state governments backing the same claim, questions are now being raised about the efficacy of masks in protecting one from the coronavirus infection.

While these advisories come in, the masses are confused about whether the healthy should refrain from wearing masks at all. People are also wondering whether or not amid the shortage of regular surgical masks that people are sporting these days, other protective gear like dupattas (stoles) and handkerchiefs stand to provide the same amount of protection as surgical masks.

It has been proven that the N95 masks are imperative to be worn to protect oneself, these are largely advised and preserved for patients suffering from the disease, their caregivers and the frontline healthcare workers working around the clock so that the infection is not spread to the community.

Here’s a look at some of the advisories issued by the government.

While India grips with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Health and Family Welfare Commissionerate, Karnataka, has come up with an advisory stating ‘everyone need not wear a mask’, the Deccan Herald reported.  

For the past few days, there has been a confusion between the administration and the police over who is required to wear masks amid the pandemic. The police have made it compulsory for everyone stepping out of their homes to wear a mask. There have been instances reported where people not wearing masks have been asked to cover half their faces with their ties or shirt, by the police. However, the advisory doesn’t mention the police but says that many departmental stores, shops and establishments.

The advisory states that a only those people have to wear a mask if he or she has symptoms such as cold, cough, fever or any other respiratory problem. Those caring for COVID-19 patients also need to wear a mask. While the former can wear a triple-layered mask, the latter has to wear an N-95 mask.

This advisory came a day after the Bengaluru City Police circulated a video showing officers giving a “lesson” to individuals for not wearing a mask.

The Union Ministry guidelines too state that it is not compulsory for everyone to wear a mask. The triple-layered masks that the police insist must be worn in public, are advised only for those visiting healthcare facilities. Many state governments too have asserted this, reports The Hindu.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that masks can give one a false feeling of protection and can be sources of infection, when not used correctly. According to WHO, masks should only be worn by healthcare workers, caregivers and people who are ill with symptoms of the coronavirus.

While many people in India, doctors included, had to say that masks are not imperative to be worn by everyone, except for those ill or around the ill, George Gao, Director General of the Chinese CDC and part of the team that did the first isolation and sequencing of Covid-19 in Wuhan where the virus broke out first, had something else to say.

Science Mag interviewed Gao over days to understand his perspective from ground zero. On being asked what mistakes other countries are making in their efforts to prevent the pandemic, Gao said, “The big mistake is that people aren’t wearing masks. This virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact. Droplets play a very important role—you’ve got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth. Many people have asymptomatic or presymptomatic infections. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others.”

While Gao was talking about people from the United States and Europe where cases have seen a humongous spike, the Indian government too can heed his advice if it wants to curb the spread and keep community transmission of the coronavirus at bay.


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