Chai Khana: The Public Square

Masks are indispensable accessories of present era

As it struck me to write on mask usage that is an indispensable accessory of the present era, the first impression I gathered during my limited journeys, reflected back that “Life is a masquerade.

Everywhere you look there are people hiding behind masks?” not to suppress their identity for some bad reason but as a reflection of awareness as how to ward off Corona infection. While a month ago anyone wearing a mask in public would have drawn stares unused to this behavior, they are now a reminder of the strange times we live in.

If we have to traverse the pages of previous pandemics, among many lessons offered by it, one of them is the use of masks. The practice of wearing face-masks to prevent disease can be dated back to Manchurian epidemics in China in 1910 followed by Spanish flu of 1918 that was christened as Bombay fever in India and that lost till 2019. The practice of covering one’s face with scarves and veils with the intention to ward off disease originated during this period.

This period also stimulated a multinational medical response and the wearing of the first personal protective equipment (PPE). In the absenteeism of decidedly potent drugs, vaccines, and bountiful medical capabilities, many implications are recycled to manage the infection rate and avoid exhausting limited hospital resources and Mask is one of them. The concept is risk reduction rather than absolute prevention. Facemasks help limit the spread of germs.

When someone talks, coughs, or sneezes they may release tiny drops into the air that can infect others. Face masks are loose-fitting masks that cover the nose and mouth, and have ear loops or ties or bands at the back of the head. If someone is ill, a face mask can reduce the number of germs that the wearer releases and can protect other people from becoming sick. Face Masks are a symbol of the pandemic era, a virtual metaphor for the tiny, unseen viral foe that could be lurking around any corner. Wearing Mask is among the non-pharmaceutical intervention measures that could be effectively implemented at a minimum cost.

Masks can be easily mass-produced and utilized in our battle against infectious diseases as Corona at present. Now when the entire world is in the grip of the Corona Pandemic, Masks, one of the strategically important as a ‘Public Health Tool’ are one of our simplest, cheapest and most effective allies in the war against COVID-19. Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives although we are well informative that the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19 but it is a strong cheapest tool to ward off the infection and is preventive in nature.

During the present Corona Pandemic it is not obligatory for infected people only to use Mask to stop passing on germs to others but for every healthy individual too, to ward off infection. We have to be socially courteous and conscientious about not passing/attracting Corona infection to one and others. It symbolizes more than just protection from infection and represents cooperation and solidarity that allows a society to function during a pandemic.

The scientific understanding of the aspect, when we need more protection to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19, tells us that such occasions where we can’t keep safe distance of at least six feet are: while taking travels on Planes, Buses, Trains or other forms of public transportation, working at a job where we interact with large numbers of the public and where we are at expanded risk for relentless illness. Wearing a mask is not only a matter of public health, an individual choice or sign of a civic courtesy. But I feel we must accept it as our fundamental values and ‘Use Mask’ must get a space as 12th ‘Fundamental Duty’ enshrined in Part IV-A of the Indian Constitution that deals with Fundamental Duties. I think the biggest thing with COVId now that shapes all of this guidance on masks is that we can’t tell who’s infected.

There is a lot of asymptomatic infection, so everybody has to wear a mask. The important quarry that can creep into the minds of people and has been politically talked of is what scientific evidence suggests the use of Mask. One category of evidence comes from laboratory studies ( of respiratory droplets and the ability of various masks to block them. An experiment using high-speed video found that hundreds of droplets ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers were generated when saying a simple phrase, but that nearly all these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered.

Another study of people who had influenza or the common cold found that wearing a surgical mask significantly reduced the amount of these respiratory viruses emitted in droplets and aerosols. Case reports also suggest that masks can prevent transmission in high risk scenarios. VCU researchers’ study of COVID-19 death rates and other variables looked at coronavirus deaths across 198 countries and found that those with government policies favoring mask-wearing had lower death rates ( Health experts say the evidence is clear that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that the more people wear masks, the better they are ( The bottom line is that any mask that covers the nose and mouth will be of benefit.


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