Coronavirus, Omicron infection: No, cloth masks are not your armour against COVID – Times of India


You are already two years old dealing with this dynamically mutating coronavirus and by this time you should know that the cloth masks you buy from the nearest departmental store won’t protect you from COVID-19 infection, no matter how mild or serious the variant are.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises the use of masks as part of a comprehensive package of prevention and control measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 inducing coronavirus. In its guidelines, issued in December 2020, the WHO had informed that a mask alone, even when it is used correctly, is insufficient to provide adequate protection or source control.

But, a mask when coupled with proper sanitisation habits can help in keeping the virus at bay.

There are different types of masks in usage currently, as a precautionary measure against COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has categorised masks in the following types: cloth masks are the fabric masks made with cotton or synthetic cloth; surgical masks or the dispensable ones are the ones with 3 layers; respirators or the KN95 masks are non-medical masks of four or five layers curved design.

“A cloth mask is intended to trap respiratory droplets that are released when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes. It also acts as a barrier to protect the wearer from inhaling droplets released by others. The most effective cloths masks are made of multiple layers of tightly woven fabric like cotton. A mask with layers will stop more droplets from getting through your mask or escaping from it,” experts at Mayo Clinic, USA say.

The CDC says only those cloth masks which have nose wires, and are made of fabrics that blocks the light when held up to bright light source can be effective against COVID.

It is difficult to ascertain whether the masks sold in the nearby shops comply with international standards and a breach in the efficiency of the mask will not only put your in danger but will also be a serious risk for others.

As per American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, a charitable scientific organization, a person with no mask can be infected within 15 mins if he or she is within 6 feet of an infected person who is also without mask. It adds that, in such a situation if both of them are wearing cloth masks then they evade the virus for 27 minutes only, whereas if both of them are wearing N95 masks or standard respirators they will remain protected from the virus for 2,500 hours. Their study further says, if the infected person is wearing a cloth mask and the other one a N95 mask, the virus canโ€™t reach the non-infected person for at least 2.5 hours.

In India, the state governments have only decided to implement lockdown measures during weekends. Though schools, colleges and offices have been ordered to switch to work from home mode, other normal activities will continue till further orders. In such scenario, and in view of the rising cases of COVID-19 Omicron infection, it is advisable to upgrade your mask.

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