The need to save masks that can filter out nearly 95% of the suspended matter in air for frontline healthcare workers confused even the US’s Surgeon General, who advised against wearing masks.
The health ministry has asked everyone to wear a mask, whether home-made or store-bought, to control the spread of SARS CoV-2—this is a change from the earlier official stance that masks are not necessary. New scientific studies show the critical role masks play in preventing spread. France has even made wearing a mask compulsory while stepping out. Given how infected persons may not show symptoms for upto a week of getting infected, a blanket advisory to use masks is a good move.
India was not alone in getting the messaging on masks wrong, most of the developed world erred too. The need to save masks that can filter out nearly 95% of the suspended matter in air for frontline healthcare workers confused even the US’s Surgeon General, who advised against wearing masks. Now that the earlier misstep is being corrected, governments everywhere need to get the messaging right.
In India, the office of the principal scientific advisor has made clear that regular masks won’t shield frontline healthcare workers—at a time when there is not enough personal protective equipment for the country’s healthcare workers, the masses must understand that indiscriminate purchase of masks that filter out 95-98% of the suspended matter in the air will create a shortage of such gear for those who are helping treat, and care for Covid-19 cases. The government needs to clearly spell out important points such as this in its messaging. A top Mumbai hospital reported 26 nurses and three doctors contracting Covid-19 while treating patients.
Given India already faces a shortage of skilled healthcare personnel, the need is to avoid facilitating more doctors, nurses, ambulance personnel, etc, from being incapacitated by the disease.