Mask up. Make it safer to live each day!

By Indira Laisram

Joylakshmi has not stopped wearing a mask even though restrictions have loosened. Sometimes, she feels she belongs to the minority who are still masked up especially in public places.

Joylakshmi’s reasoning is simple. She takes the train to the city few days a week, lives by herself and wants to take every precaution against the virus. She does not want to contract COVID again (she had it once last year), and she is also assured of not passing on the infection to someone else.

Unlike her, there are others who feel being next to a person with mask induces panic attack. Indeed, the mask mandate till few months ago caused a lot of grumbling among people.

But with the resurgence of COVID cases in the state and not expected to peak for at least another month, the head of the Australian Medical Association says that a return to mask mandates is required.

Doctor Omar Khorshid, President of the Association, says that current hospitalisation numbers from COVID were alarming and that state Premiers needed to recognise the need for a mask mandate. Mandatory mask wearing would help protect healthcare workers and the hospital system, which is facing increasing pressure as case numbers grow, he adds.

Currently, all messaging from federal and state level governments indicates that a return to mask mandates will not be happening. The government, however, recommends “mask wearing in indoor and crowded settings to protect yourself and the most vulnerable Victorians through winter—but there are no changes to current face mask requirements”.

On major forums, people like Doris LeRoy, an Altona resident says, “No use creating mask mandates until the ones that are in place, on public transport, are policed.” Her ire is understandable as people are dropping their guard.

For those, who are still confounded by the concept of wearing masks, it is not the same category as isolation or quarantine. As Shepparton-based Dr Sudeshna Deb Barman says, “There are new strains of the COVID virus coming up. By and large if you wear a mask, you cannot inhale the virus through your nose and mouth, and it cannot go to your body. That is the only thing.”

There are different types of masks and the N95 is the most effective as it has different layers, she says, adding, “Washing hands and wearing a mask are a must now.” Incidentally, the N95 masks are one of the most common air filtering respirators which are currently in high demand during the COVID‐19 pandemic, according to the National Library of Medicine.

The odds are the odds, but the fact remains that you could shift the balance with booster shots, antiviral tablets, RAT tests, proper masks, and upgraded ventilation systems, as per experts. The level of community spread could be overcome and the vulnerable can be protected to an extent.

Despite the different views of the masks, health authorities opine their important role in controlling the pandemic.


Medical masks

Also called surgical masks, these are loose-fitting disposable masks. They’re meant to protect the wearer from contact with droplets and sprays that may contain germs. A medical mask also filters out large particles in the air when the wearer breathes in. Wearing a medical mask doesn’t increase the level of carbon dioxide in the air you breathe.

N95 masks

An N95 mask offers the highest level of protection. It offers more protection than a medical mask does because it filters out both large and small particles when the wearer inhales. Non-surgical N95s can be used by the general public.

Cloth masks

A cloth mask is intended to trap respiratory droplets that are released when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes. It also acts as a barrier to protect the wearer from inhaling droplets released by others.

The most effective cloths masks are made of multiple layers of tightly woven fabric like cotton. A mask with layers will stop more droplets from getting through your mask or escaping from it.

The pandemic is not behind us as yet. We owe it to one another to reduce the risk.

(With inputs from Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

The Indian Sun acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

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