Wear masks at home, Covid-19 now a runaway outbreak: Govt

The officials said it is now crucial to reduce the scale of the outbreak since India’s large population means the “health infrastructure will never be enough”.
People wearing protective face masks wait to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at a vaccination centre in Mumbai, India, April 26, 2021. (Reuters)
People wearing protective face masks wait to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at a vaccination centre in Mumbai, India, April 26, 2021. (Reuters)
Published on Apr 27, 2021 12:57 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Covid-19 is now a “runaway outbreak” in several parts of the country, and people may need to wear masks while they are at home, especially if they or someone in the household is infected, a top official said on Monday, as the government urged people to do more to break the chain of transmission.

The officials said it is now crucial to reduce the scale of the outbreak since India’s large population means the “health infrastructure will never be enough”.

“If there is one positive person at home, it is very important that the infected person wears a mask because he transmits the virus to others. In fact, now it is time, I’d say, that we should anyway wear a mask at home. We used to talk about (wearing a mask) outside but now because the spread is high, and if someone is accidentally infected at home, we should keep a mask on. It will be beneficial,” said VK Paul, member (Health), Niti Aayog, during the government’s weekly briefing on Covid-19.

A health ministry official described the scale of outbreak.“We have reiterated it many times, but today it becomes all the more important -- in the light of runaway spread of infection that we find -- in certain regions that Covid-appropriate behavior such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, and wearing a mask is strictly observed,” said Lav agarwal, joint secretary, Union ministry of health and family welfare.

India recorded 319, 509 new cases and 2,764 more people died, according to HT dashboard on Monday.

“Almost all the states have currently crossed their highest daily reported cases during previous wave’s peak in September last year, which is a major cause for concern as it overloads our health care delivery system and poses a challenge in clinical management of patients,” said Agarwal.

“Given the scale of India’s population, the health infrastructure will never be enough. Therefore, it is crucial to prevent infection to avoid putting undue stress on our health infrastructure. Some states have more than 1 lakh active cases; therefore, our focus will be containment and effective clinical management of these cases. But most important is to observe Covid-19 appropriate behaviour,” he added.

The official quoted from certain studies to illustrate the gains from social distancing, pointing out that if no distancing measures are followed, one person can infect 406 people in 30 days. But if people reduce exposure by 50%, this number falls to around 15 in the same period.

OXYGEN CRISIS

The government officials at the briefing also addressed the oxygen crisis in several parts of the country, which in some cases has led to people in critical condition succumbing after the facilities they were in ran out of supply.

“India is going through a critical phase as far as second wave is concerned, and for optimal hospital utilisation, there is a need for community participation. The panic is causing more harm than good. As even mild cases rush to a hospital, start medicines that are not required or even have started hoarding oxygen and essential medicines,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.

“Oxygen is an important strategy for treating Covid, but misuse is not recommended. 94% oxygen saturation is good, which means enough oxygen is reaching all organs and tissues. You don’t have to bring it up to 98-99%. We say 94% that’s to keep a buffer,” he said, also adding hospitals to cut down on wastage.

For drugs like antiviral injection remdesivir, Guleria said that not everyone needs the drug, and it should be given only to hospitalized patients with moderate to severe disease.

“Only about 10-15% of the cases require oxygen therapy, and medicines like remdesivir. As high as 85-90% Covid-19 positives get mild or no symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and need symptomatic treatment.

Guleria said if for some reason there is a delay in getting Covid-19 RT-PC tests, those with all typical symptoms of the disease should immediately get isolated and consult a doctor.

“Now we will have to do clinic-radiological diagnosis and treat these patients like Covid-19 cases. Fever, cold, cough, sore throat is most likely Covid-19 in these times. So, if there are symptoms just isolate and consult a doctor,” said Guleria.

Experts said the recommendation to use masks indoors depends on the risks involved, including whether the transmission rate at the time is high.

“Should you be masking at home? If you are staying someone who is infected or infectious, it makes a lot of sense for you to do so. If you are in contact with people you do not know or how much exposure they had outside, you should stay masked. Now should stay masked inside the house with people you know who have not been infected or exposed to someone who is unknown to the family? I am not sure the level of risk that has or whether in that situation also you should mask up,” said Gagandeep Kang, one of the country’s leading health experts, in an interview to HT.

(With inputs from Sunetra Choudhury)

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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Sunday, June 26, 2022