CoronaVirus: Snippets 1 July 2020 ……….

By Rakesh Ahuja

Masks: Non-negotiable First Line of Defence

I have written about this issue earlier under Health/Antara Living. The debate goes on. At the global level, this issue has become a powerful symbol of political divisions. For example, in the USA, the perception is growing that you are a Democrat if you wear a mask, a Republican if you do not. Both Trump and Brazil’s Bolsonaro refuse to mandate wearing masks despite the uniform advice of their own health experts (though both have started to wear one). And then there are debates at the State and municipal levels and within local business and community organisations in Europe, Australia and here in India.

You can read endless views for or against wearing masks elsewhere. I have only one conclusion: Masking is a Non-Negotiable First Line of Defence against Coronavirus. I am no epidemiologist let alone having any medical expertise. But from a common-sense point of view, I believe there is one overwhelming reason for wearing masks (irrespective of whether or not physical distance is possible).

Two points have been drilled into our heads since the pandemic started. One, when someone speaks, sneezes, etc. infected droplets can enter us through mouth, nose and eyes. Two, infected droplets can survive on hard surfaces for hours, so if you touch them, clean your hands thoroughly.

Now comes the real problem: Coronavirus can linger in the air for an hour or more. So imagine you in a crowded market, and an infected person has sneezed (and departed) and you walk through the remnants. Unmasked, you are at risk.

Virology research has now established that tiny particles of novel coronavirus can remain suspended in the atmosphere for hours (depending on ventilation). Hence, the WHO has changed its advisory and cautioned that “aerosol” particles could be a significant route of transmission. Masks are an essential line of defence against them.

According to Professor Barclay, UK’s Scientific Advisory Group: “What we know is that viruses can be expelled into the air from infected people in very small droplets and sometimes even in droplets that are so small we call them aerosols and these aerosols can remain suspended in the air and can travel some distance away from the person who’s breathed them out.”

Incidentally, N95 masks are so designated because they protect against only 95% of droplets in the air. In effect, we are still inhaling the remaining 5%, the aerosols.

Now, I do not doubt that there is an overwhelming case for wearing masks in an environment crisscrossed by other humans.

And one more point: Yes, there is a minor inconvenience in donning masks. But we wear ties when they serve only a presentational purpose, nothing to do with health. We wear scarves, carry shawls, just in case it might get cold.

So what is the problem with Masks? They protect You and You protect Others.

31 December 2020

A revelation. I am susceptible to bad colds once in a while as indeed everyone is. But here is the thing. Looking back to this year, I do not recall a single bad cold episode. I suspect that the lesson is so obvious: Masks are helping to cut down colds. Medical authorities should gather empirical evidence of this and if this is indeed the case, buttress their case for the value of wearing masks in the age of the Wuhan Pandemic.

#COVID19, #Coronavirus, #Masks