While waiting for my turn in the queue at a grocery store in Kathmandu last week, my eyes fell upon a guide of instructions pasted on the wall beside me. The paper listed out five points on how one should wear a mask properly.
“So, these are the dos and don’ts on how to wear a face mask?” I thought to myself curiously as I finished reading through the lines.
The very next moment I tried noticing how the people around me wore their masks and if it fulfilled the criteria I just read. While some people were wearing masks in their own unique ways, I found out that most of them weren’t wearing face masks at all.
While it made me a little bit sad, I found it baffling at the same time. Why wouldn’t people want to wear a mask even though there have been announcements made and rules imposed every now and then by the government?
It has already been two years since the Covid-19 has made our lives difficult. Though wearing a face mask has become the first and the most effective measure to be taken, people don’t seem to fully abide by it. Some say that wearing a mask makes it difficult for them to breathe comfortably. And there are people who consider the coronavirus as nothing more than the normal flu/cold. A number of people who were affected by the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic feel it unnecessary to wear a mask because they believe the new variant won’t affect them anymore. Lastly, there are a few people who don’t seem to care about wearing a mask because of their ignorance and carelessness. They feel that wearing a mask is not going to protect them from the virus.
But does wearing a mask really help protect us from the coronavirus?
To answer that question, we have to first understand how the coronavirus spreads from one person to another. When an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes, droplets or tiny particles from their mouth or nose carry the virus into the air. Any healthy person who is within six feet of that infected person can breathe it into their lungs and get infected by the virus. To prevent the contaminated particles from reaching into a healthy person’s lungs, it is necessary for people to maintain some distance or cover their mouths and noses. So, a mask can act as a barrier between the person’s face and the surroundings. It can help prevent the spread of the virus as it acts as an extra layer of protection for the mouth. Also, wearing a mask prevents direct contact of hands with their faces which protects them from getting the contaminated particles from their fingers into their mouths.
While wearing a mask may not completely prevent us from getting the virus, it will surely help to reduce the chances of getting it.
Scientific studies say that when a person says a single sentence, hundreds of droplets ranging in size from 20 to 500 micrometers are produced, but nearly all of these droplets are stopped when the mouth is covered by a cloth or a mask. Another study indicated that wearing a surgical mask dramatically reduced the number of respiratory viruses emitted in droplets and aerosols among patients who had the flu or a common cold. Similarly, we’ve heard of numerous studies that suggest a decrease in the frequency of coronavirus cases in areas where people are required to wear masks. So, how do we actually persuade people to wear a mask as a safety measure from the Covid-19?
Mask saves lives
For that, first of all, we need to spread awareness about the fact that wearing a mask actually saves lives. We can consider examples of how surgeons and doctors have always been wearing masks and gowns inside the emergency rooms while tackling a number of viruses and diseases. It has been a practice and a precaution that has been carried out for ages. Wearing a mask can assist to keep your germs from infecting others if you are not feeling well. It is the best and the only way to keep your near and dear ones safe even if you get the virus. However, if you are well, a mask can prevent respiratory droplets from landing in your nose and mouth from someone who is sick. People need to understand that while wearing a mask won’t completely prevent them from getting the virus, it will surely help to reduce their chances of getting it.
Therefore, the government has to encourage people to wear masks every time they go out. As new variants arise every day, wearing a mask properly should be as essential as maintaining social distance from other people. Not only that, it is proven to be the cheapest and the most effective means to stop the transmission of the new variants of Covid-19. While we can’t say how effective wearing a mask is, we do know that it provides some protection, whereas not wearing one provides none. In other words, when everyone wears a mask, we are all at the lowest risk of coronavirus.
Simran KC is an undergraduate student of Public Health at the Institute of Medicine, Maharajgunj, Kathmandu.