Struggling to arrest the rise in COVID-19 cases, many states including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha have made wearing masks at public places compulsory.
On Wednesday, Mumbai’s civic body BMC even warned that people not wearing masks in the city could be arrested. The Uttar Pradesh Government has also warned of action under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
But does a mask protect really protect against the Coronavirus?
According to the Government, new research has found that facial masks can substantially reduce the spread of the novel Coronavirus. Protective masks lower chances of the virus entering the respiratory system through droplets present in the air.
Scientists have found that people who are infected with the COVID-19 virus can spread it even without displaying the symptoms. But by wearing a mask, such people will impose a physical barrier that can prevent infected droplets from escaping their mouth or nose.
Govt: Even healthy people must wear masks
The government says that healthy people should wear homemade face masks, especially outside their homes, for better personal hygiene and community protection.
On April 6, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also stressed on wearing such home-made masks instead of surgical masks.
The Science and technology ministry has published a detailed manual on using and making home-made masks. Issued by the Ofﬁce of the Principal Scientiﬁc Adviser to the Prime Minister, the 16-page manual “Masks for Curbing the Spread of SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus” says: “Analyses show that if 50% of the population were to wear masks, only 50% of the population would be infected by the virus. Once 80% of the population wears a mask, the outbreak can be stopped immediately.”
Recommending home-made masks especially for people living in densely populated areas, the manual says they can be re-used after cleaning with ingredients available at home.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that people wear basic cloth or fabric masks that can be either purchased online, or simply made at home.
However, the World Health Organization has cautioned that while masks could help limit the spread of the disease, they are insufficient on their own. While acknowledging that the virus can be transmitted by people who don’t have the symptoms, the virus must still spread via droplets or contaminated surfaces, which physical distancing and hand-washing are intended to minimise.