As India grappled with a raging second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the Centre on Monday advised people that the time had come to wear a face mask even at home, especially if a Covid-19 patient was around. The government, however, added that unnecessary panic was causing more harm than good.
Addressing a joint press conference with other senior functionaries, Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog, said, “If there is Covid-19 positive case in the family, it is very important that the person wears a mask even indoors because the virus can spread to others in the home. I would rather go on to say that the time has come that we start wearing mask at home even otherwise.”
Earlier this month, a Lancet study said the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes Covid-19 is airborne. "This is a debate which has been going on for more than six months, whether it is droplet or aerosol, and in my mind it is a mixture of both," All India Institute of Medical Sciences director Dr Randeep Guleria has told News18 in an interview.
Droplet infection means that the size of the particle is larger. And, therefore, because the droplets carrying the virus are of larger size, the virus cannot travel for a longer distance and cannot stay in the air for a long time and quickly drops on surfaces and the surfaces get infected. "So that is why in the initial part, we were focusing a lot on surface cleaning also as a part of droplet infection," Guleria said. "But a lot of people have been showing data for the last, I would say, seven to eight months, that along with droplet, there is also aerosol transmission.”
Aerosol means that this virus also can get transmitted when someone coughs or sneezes, with smaller particles, which are smaller in size, less than five microns. And they are the ones which can stay in the air for a longer period of time, can travel for a longer distance and don’t drop down to the surfaces. “So you may have a person in an indoor environment who is more than two metres away from you, is coughing, and viruses stay in the environment, in the air, for a longer period. And if you cross that area, you may have a chance of getting the infection although you were always away from him by two metres," Guleria added.
He stressed the need for wearing mask properly and even double masking at times, and having good cross ventilation in an indoor environment.
WHAT AND HOW OF MASKING
According to Guleria, in a doctor’s office or in a hospital, an N-95 mask is preferred. He also advocated double-masking, where the inner part is what we call a triple-layer surgical mask. "And on top of that you can have a cloth mask. If that is also not available, then two layers of cloth masks can also be done. But the best efficacy that has been shown in various studies is with N95 masks, which is more than 90%. 85 to 90% is if you were to use a surgical mask and on top of that a cloth mask when you’re going out, and below that is wearing a cloth mask," he said.
He said wearing a mask properly was also important. "So whenever you use a mask, make sure that it tightly fits around your nose and mouth so that air does not come in from the side of your nose or from the side of the cheek. Because, remember, you have to have air coming in from the filtering mechanism of the mask so that the virus cannot go into your nose and mouth. If the air comes in from the side without the filter, you will get the infection. Therefore, whenever you use the mask, make sure that you press it properly around your nose, around your cheeks. And you see that the chin is also properly covered so that air is coming in from the mouth. You could even take a deep breath and if the mask comes in that means air is being sucked in through the mask and you can be a little bit reassured that the mask is working properly. So these are the double-layered masks and the precautions that you need to take while wearing it. Also, when you wear a mask, before wearing a mask, wash your hands properly. When you take your mask off after you come out, again, wash your hands properly so that you don’t get the infection on your hand if the mask is contaminated," Guleria said.