Which Type Of Masks Are Best Defence Against COVID-19? What Experts Say

A mask is the most affordable and easy way to prevent COVID-19 infection, experts say.

New Delhi:

With daily COVID-19 cases seeing a drop over the third wave peak in January, more people are returning to a normal life again. However, this has also led to many people sidestepping COVID-19 guidelines, like wearing a mask in social settings. Is that really the way forward? Should we let our guard down just yet? And if not, what should be our first line of defence against this damaging and evolving virus? Most experts say wearing a neatly fitting mask, preferably an N-95 offers the best protection against the virus, whose “transmission route” is via aerosols.

Dr Madukar Bhardwaj, a senior consultant, neurology, has worked with COVID-19 patients through all three waves. But he has managed to avoid contracting the virus, a remarkable feat considering the severity of the Delta variant and the transmissibility of Omicron. He says COVID-19 brought a “gamut of neurological symptoms” and he could not wear a full PPE suit every time he saw a patient, who numbered 60-80 a day. “So, I resorted to a mask, an N-95,” he told NDTV, adding, “So far, it has worked well.”

When reminded he has also been vaccinated, he agreed that too have contributed to his immunity. But, he added, that wearing a “well-protected, a well-fitted N-95 for a medical professional definitely is the first line of defence”.

Dr Shashank Joshi, member of Maharashtra COVID Task Force, too said that mask is definitely the first line of defence as “we live in environments which are closed, indoor spaces (and) poorly ventilated rooms, crowds. This is a way of life for us… Currently, as far as we are concerned, the mask mandate will remain for the next couple of months.” Independent of the strains of COVID, the mask is the “strongest vaccine” available, he added.

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But there are asymptomatic cases, where people don’t know they have COVID-19 and they are going about their businesses. And many are saying COVID-19 is likely becoming endemic. So, is it now more critical to wear a mask?

Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation, said even if COVID-19 becomes endemic, it is likely to continue to infect those who are vulnerable, in whom the immunity is failing, especially the elderly. “All vaccines available across the world are able to prevent severe illness, not the infection. What prevents infection is the mask, which denies the virus entry into our nasal, mouth and throat, and, therefore, it is absolutely important that we continue to mask” till the virus weakens all over the world.

So, experts say, a mask is the most affordable and easy way to prevent COVID-19 infection.

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