Mask compliance on the wane in State

Experts stress the need to continue the practice, particularly in crowded and closed spaces

April 15, 2022 08:29 pm | Updated 08:29 pm IST - CHENNAI

With COVID-19 cases declining gradually in Chennai, adherence to mask-wearing is also on the wane. Not many are wearing masks in public places, while compliance with other forms of COVID-19-appropriate behaviour has also dropped over the past few weeks.

Fresh coronavirus infections have steadily dropped across the State, staying below the 30-mark on most days since the start of April. Chennai reported new cases in single digits and nil deaths on several days.

However, the drop in cases and the relaxation of restrictions have led to poor compliance with COVID-19-appropriate behaviour. In particular, the use of masks has dwindled among the public.

Noting that there was a visible drop in masking, health officials and public health experts stressed the need to continue the practice, particularly in crowded and closed spaces.

The Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine had withdrawn only the notification for mandatory vaccination in public places. The directives on masking and physical distancing were still in place, and COVID-19 remained a notifiable disease, Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan had pointed out earlier.

He said people had assumed that there was no COVID-19 and masking was not necessary. “There is an incorrect impression among the people that they do not need to wear masks in public places. We need to stay alert. We are reiterating the need to adhere to COVID-19-appropriate behaviour and get vaccinated,” he said.

In an earlier communication to officials, he said the abject lack of adherence to COVID-19-appropriate behaviour was a cause for concern in the State.

T.S. Selvavinayagam, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said it was too early to take off the mask. “We have clearly said that only the notification on mandatory vaccination in public places has been withdrawn. Wearing masks may be uncomfortable for many, but it definitely has a protective value against many respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. People at high risk - those with co-morbidities and the elderly - should wear masks in crowded places, as there is every possibility of exposure to infection,” he said. 

Prabhdeep Kaur, deputy director, Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Epidemiology, said wearing masks was important in crowded and closed spaces. “People should be encouraged and educated on the need to wear masks in places such as malls, theatres and big stores such as textile showrooms, where there is no physical distancing,” she said.

Though the increase in daily cases and the positivity rate in places like Delhi was too early a trend to predict, and was of no immediate concern, experts insisted on the need to stay cautious.

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