Letters to the Editor — April 2, 2020

Decoding mask use

Opinions of the Health Ministry and Scientific Adviser differing on mask use (Inside pages, “Ministry, Scientific Adviser differ on mask use”, April 1) signals a fault line that should not have become news. The public needs to know only the consensus. Masks that people wear, generally called ‘surgical masks’ are for blocking a surgeon’s salivary droplets from falling on the surgical field of exposed tissue. By analogy, if people with cough wear masks, droplet expulsion is drastically curtailed.

When a person who is hale wears a mask, the chances of inhaling droplets from the person in front of you are also drastically reduced, not to zero. That is why we wear masks in tuberculosis (TB) clinics. By analogy, anyone who wears a mask during social interactions has a much reduced chance of getting infected. In TB clinics, both the patient and the health-care staff wear surgical masks.

It is a good idea now with prevalent COVID-19, for people to wear masks while engaged in activities that require conversations — shop staff, cashiers, police, etc. If medical shops are out of stock, we can make make-shift masks. A mask can be removed and kept, and re-used the next day by the same user. The sick person should safely discard the mask each day after use.

When health-care workers care for patients with COVID-19, they must wear N-95 masks and not surgical masks. You need zero probability of inhaling the virus. No compromise is allowed. Equally important is goggles that fit reasonably tightly. You do not want virus in droplets or burst droplets falling on the eye, the exposed part of which —called conjunctiva — is mucous membrane, which is as vulnerable to virus entry as nasal mucosa. That is why personal protective equipment for “respiratory precaution” is N-95 masks and proper goggles or at least a visor such as what motor-bikers wear.

It is incorrect to say that if people buy surgical masks there will be a shortage of N-95 masks, unless you conflate the two. It is sad that for this simple matter they want WHO guidance. Remember we are in April; the problem had started in January. Let there be no more disagreements at the top level. Sufficient knowledge is available, just for the asking, in the country.

Dr. T. Jacob John,

Vellore, Tamil Nadu


Treat them well

The directive by the Supreme Court of India to officials handling the exodus of migrant labourers is a clear indictment of the methods adopted by the establishment both at the Centre and the States concerned to solve the crisis. (Page 1, “Treat migrants humanely, SC tells officials”, April 1). If the images of the spraying of disinfectants on migrants are downright appalling, the sight of thousands of them being packed like sardines in godowns and elsewhere too smacks of undignified behaviour by those to whose care these migrants had been entrusted. The unorganised sector’s contribution has never been recognised though it has been invaluable in several sectors including the construction business. While announcing the abrupt lockdown the Centre had probably not envisaged a crisis of such a high magnitude involving migrants. But it would be ludicrous to believe that they would have been able to stay on in their workspots with income drying up.

C.V. Aravind,



Delhi hotspot

Nothing tests the extent of people’s civic sense and responsibility better than health emergencies such as pandemics (Editorial, “Step up”, April 1). No government can stop the spread of the virus without the active participation of people in preventive measures. Citizens should not only comply with lockdown and disease-prevention protocols but also actively engage with the authorities by providing vital information about the travel and contact histories of persons testing positive for COVID-19.

The organisers of Delhi’s religious congregation demonstrated a callous disregard for public safety when they hosted thousands of people from across the country and the world. They should share all the information about the participants in their possession with the authorities so as to enable the latter to map the itinerary of the attendees and to trace their primary and secondary contacts without further delay. Incalculable are the costs of lax civic behaviour.

V.N. Mukundarajan,


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Printable version | May 26, 2020 3:09:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/letters-to-the-editor-april-2-2020/article31230359.ece

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