Post Mortem

To wear or not to wear masks, that is the life and death question

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 10/24/2020 1:21:25 PM IST

 Advocates believe masks worn by infected people help to restrict virus transmission. Sceptics hold they are ineffective in shielding the healthy, a source of potential harm, and cause emotional-social side effects. When President Donald Trump was hospitalised with coronavirus, some concluded karma had caught up with his risky behaviour of not wearing masks. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 71% of coronavirus-infected Americans reported wearing masks always and 14% often in the two weeks before the illness. Only 8% never or rarely wore them.

Virus transmission occurs mostly indoors, when exposed to an infected person for a prolonged period, and outdoors only in close proximity to others. Maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres outdoors from people outside the family circle is better precaution, than wearing a mask in close proximity to others. There’s no need for masks inside a car or if a family is playing in a park or on the beach separated from others. Only bureaucrats could require a solitary farmer on his tractor in a lonely paddock to wear a mask. From Melbourne comes a confronting video of the use of force by a policeman against a young woman for not wearing a mask. In the US, a Florida sheriff banned police officers and visitors entering the office from wearing masks because of security concerns amidst anti-police protests. Banks that once feared masked robbers now treat maskless customers as outcastes: proof that history does irony.

The science on face masks distinguishes between cloth and medical masks, healthcare workers and general populations, open spaces and closed settings, sick and healthy people, and lab experiments and randomised controlled trials. Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine says “there is considerable uncertainty as to the value of wearing masks.” The WHO and the CDC have changed their advice from February.

In hospitals, professionals learn how to put on, adjust, remove, dispose, and clean before and after donning a medical mask. Making cloth masks compulsory for everyone, everywhere however is ill-advised. It’s physically impossible for anyone without the virus to spread it. Masks may be useful around high-risk elderly people. With limited utility in restricting the spread of coronavirus, they’ve not been proven effective for prevention, are a potential health hazard according to Dr Andrea Ammon, director of the European CDC, and are best used when social distancing is not possible, as is often the case in crowded India.

Some studies show compromised immune function caused by oxygen deprivation can harm pregnant women and asthmatics. One randomised study found the rate of influenza-like illness among Vietnamese hospital workers who wore cloth masks was three times higher than those without masks. UK deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries cautioned on 12 March that “you can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in.” People who touch a contaminated mask surface, perhaps to adjust it, and then touch eyes, nose or ears, can be infected. Professor Kazunari Onishi found that incorrectly-worn cloth masks can have a 100% leakage rate, substantially raising the risk of infection. They “can’t prevent virus infection” but prevent spreading the droplets by coughing. If you have the cold or flu and go out, wear a mask. Better still, stay home.

Austrian scientists found no influence on the infection rate from introduction, retraction and re-introduction of mandatory face masks. A Finnish working group concluded there’s “no scientific evidence for its use.” Danish, Dutch and Swedish public health authorities have rejected mandatory mask wearing because there’s no conclusive evidence of beneficial effects. An article in The New England Journal of Medicine found that wearing masks “outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection”. Often “the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.” While useful as a psychological crutch against fear, “Masks have not been demonstrated to have a degree of efficiency that would warrant their compulsory application” for checking epidemics.

Raemsh Thakur 

(Views expressed above are the author’s own)

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

Desk:+91-3862-248 489, e-mail: npdesk@gmail.com Fax: +91-3862-248 500
Advt.:+91-3862-248 267, e-mail:npostadvt@gmail.com

QUICK LINKS

SUNDAY POST

Join us on

© Nagaland Post 2018. All Rights are Reserved
Designed by : 4C Plus