Kerala to asks its citizens to wear cotton facemasks except for healthcare workers during the pandemic

At the same time, the document on cloth masks highlights that such masks are not medical masks and should not be used in healthcare settings
Image for representational purpose only (Pic: PTI)
Image for representational purpose only (Pic: PTI)

Foreseeing a long battle against COVID-19, the state will advise all its citizens to wear cotton facemasks during the pandemic season. As per a document prepared by the state health department, except healthcare workers, COVID-19 suspects or patients, people with breathing difficulty or with any difficulty in removing the mask without assistance like bedridden ones and debilitated persons, all others will be advised to wear cloth masks made out of cotton.

Earlier reports had said that the health department might ask the people to wear reusable facemasks as part of breaking the chain of transmission. "The focus should be on stopping the spread of droplets as they are the carriers of SARS-CoV-2 virus. An international study is there that by placing a layer of cloth in front of a person's face it could stop 99 per cent of the droplets. But that doesn't mean that one should rush to buy medical/surgical masks. They are for healthcare workers," said an officer of the health department.

At the same time, the document on cloth masks highlights that such masks are not medical masks and should not be used in healthcare settings. It also stressed that as cloth masks can provide only marginal protection from the infection, people should continue practices of social distancing and hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene practices.

"The cloth masks should be of at least two layers of hundred per cent cotton cloth. It should be breathable. Also, it should cover the mouth and nose completely, fit tightly and comfortably against the side of the face. Each individual should have a set of cloth masks," reads an excerpt of the document. According to a senior officer at the department, it will very soon kick start a campaign to create awareness among people on the need to wear facemasks and how to make cloth masks at home. To meet the demand self-help groups and Kudumbasree workers will also be roped in.

Earlier, in a high-level meeting on COVID-19 preparedness chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on April 3, it was decided that the wearing of cloth masks should be made mandatory in the state from April 15. The decision was taken after considering the possibility of community transmission of COVID-19. At the same time, the constitution of a committee to study the availability of masks was also stressed. "It is learnt that the Centre is considering proposals from various quarters regarding extension of lockdown from April 14 midnight. But the wearing of masks should have to be considered as a long term measure especially when there is no approved vaccines or therapies for the disease. Except for the aforementioned categories, others could wear cloth masks. N95 and triple-layer masks will have to be limited to healthcare workers," said the senior officer.

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