NEW DELHI: As the number of COVID-19 cases rises, the health ministry has made a U-turn and recommended using homemade masks for the general public and said that it’s a barrier protection approach for densely populated areas to protect the community at large. Earlier, the health ministry had said that the WHO guidelines clearly say that healthy people don’t need masks while K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser, issued a manual on homemade masks quoting WHO that if 80 per cent of the population wears a mask, the outbreak can be stopped immediately. Joint Secretary in the Ministry Lav Agarwal on Saturday said that the ministry’s policy on surgical masks remain the same that these are to be used by people directly dealing with COVID-19 cases.
“Homemade protective face covers are for maintaining overall hygienic health conditions,” said Agarwal. The ministry suggested that such people who are not suffering from medical conditions or having breathing difficulties may use the handmade reusable face cover, particularly when they step out of their homes. “This face cover is not recommended for either health workers or those working with or in contact with COVID 19 patients or are patients themselves as these categories of people are required to wear specified protective gear,” added the guidelines.
On the utility of wearing a mask, the manual says that “COVID-19 spreads easily from person-to-person contact. Virus carrying droplets dry fast enough to form droplet nuclei and remain airborne eventually landing on different surfaces.” After the health ministry’s advisory, the rural development ministry on Saturday said that production of masks has begun. In an official statement, the ministry said that the production of masks is being undertaken in collaboration with Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in 399 districts of 24 states.
According to the ministry, the production of masks is being done under the ministry’s National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) scheme. “The manufacture of masks has started at different dates in different states keeping in mind the need for them due to the pandemic. As of now, the SHGs have helped to make 132 lakh masks,” a ministry official said. The ministry data states that a total of 14,522 SHGs are involved in the process of mask making and over 65,000 people are rendering their services for the same.