It’s about time face masks got their due in the coronavirus battle. Recent research published by scientists from two top universities of Britain says that population-level use of face masks could have a substantive impact on reduction of Covid-19 spread. The mathematical model goes on to advocate that masks can even be home-made and still be effective in cutting down transmission. “Under certain conditions, when lockdown periods are implemented in combination with 100% facemask use, there is vastly less disease spread, secondary and tertiary waves are flattened, and the epidemic is brought under control,” says the study.
Interestingly, the much-maligned WHO, which hemmed and hawed over the efficacy of masks even when the virus had begun to leap across continents, came out with a protocol last week that is in agreement with this. The British study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, concludes that a population-wide approach of face mask use in combination with physical distancing or even periods of lockdown can become “an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and reopening economic activity”. A key message from the outcome of the study is this might work well for developed as well as developing countries where access to and affordability of face masks is a concern.
For a populous nation like India, recommending face masks as a national strategy against the pandemic does make sense. As horrible stories pour out of Delhi and Maharashtra, the coronavirus graph appears to have reached its inflection point. With the tally reaching 2.76 lakh and daily cases close to 10,000, it is a decisive point for the country where just three states account for half its numbers. The good news is the number of those cured—at 48.8%—has surpassed active cases.
The downside, though, is the widespread lack of discipline displayed by people after the lockdown was relaxed in many parts of the country. Economic activities would continue to be opened up but very little is known about how the fresh waves would pan out in the months to come. This could be the right time to drive home the message the new study delivers: “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.”