Tamil Nadu

Herd masking — another way to tackle the pandemic

Residents wearing face masks wait in line for nucleic acid testing at a residential community in Wuhan, Hubei, China.

Residents wearing face masks wait in line for nucleic acid testing at a residential community in Wuhan, Hubei, China.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

The concept should be promoted aggressively, says top official

Herd immunity is no longer an alien phrase consigned to public health textbooks. Due to COVID-19, more people than ever before understand the term to mean the protection a community gets when a large percentage of the population has immunity to a disease.

Watch | Explained: Herd immunity and herd masking

But the latest term that’s being bandied about is ‘herd masking’, which refers to the immunity against the disease that wearing masks gives a community. “We settled on this term, based on discussions with some doctors. Herd masking, as a concept, should be promoted aggressively because, along with handwashing and physical distancing, this is going to make a huge difference,” said J. Radhakrishnan, Chennai Corporation’s special nodal officer for COVID-19 control operations.

“The Chief Minister has also instructed us to supply free cloth masks to the poor. Based on this, we are readying three sets of washable cloth masks each to be distributed to about 26 lakh poor people in Chennai,” Dr. Radhakrishnan said. Several Corporations and Municipalities have started distributing masks for free.

He recalled that an international group of scientists and researchers had recently endorsed the use of simple face-covering materials as masks. “Globally, there have been quite a few changes in the right strategies to fight COVID-19. But today, with all the experience that different nations have, there is a wide consensus about the benefit of [using] masks in preventing the spread of infections,” he added. Since COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets, there is sufficient evidence to show that the use of masks to cover the nose and face, particularly in public places, would go a long way in helping to prevent the spread of the infection — from the point of view of an asymptomatic person, there is no transmission of infection, and someone who is infection-free stays that way.

K. Kolandaswamy, former Director of Public Health, said masks were a key intervention in cutting the transmission of the novel coronavirus. But mask hygiene is also very important, he added. Suggesting that cloth masks could be used, he says the masks should be washed in hot water. If dried in the sun, they could be used again immediately, and if dried indoors, they can be used at least 72 hours later. The masks should be handled with their ear strings, and frequent touching of the outer side, and adjustments, must be avoided.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 3:49:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/herd-masking-another-way-to-tackle-the-pandemic/article31604455.ece

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