Why people in Mumbai don’t wear masks despite Covid-19 threat? ‘Lost it; it flew away; led to allergy’Updated: Oct 01, 2020, 00:43 IST
Since the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) made it mandatory for Mumbaiites to wear masks in public places, the civic body has fined 14,000 people for flouting this rule. As of September 26, BMC had earned ₹52.76 lakh from non-compliance of the mask rule, and field inspectors say civilians remain negligent about wearing masks.
In end-June, BMC had issued an order that made not wearing a mask in public areas a punishable offence. Each ward has 25 field inspectors drawn from the solid waste management (SWM) department and these officers encounter strange excuses from civilians who are not wearing masks. “People often say that they have lost or forgotten their masks, and therefore are heading to a medical shop to buy one. Some even say it flew off while they were riding a bike. Once, a defaulter told me that a pigeon had pooped on his mask,” said field inspector Dharmesh Salvi.
Morning walkers are regularly seen with their masks around their chins instead of covering their nose and mouth. “When we catch them, they complain of breathlessness while walking with the mask. Some even claim to be asthma patients who feel suffocated while walking if they put their mask on,” said Jyoti Jadhav, from A ward’s SWM department. Dr Prashant Borade of Global Hospital, said, “We don’t have any scientific studies to prove that masks lead to asthma or other serious breathing problems. It is essential to wear masks to save oneself from Covid-19 infection.”
Other excuses proffered include sensitive skin, being allergic to sweat, suffering from heat rash, and the claim that they were eating or drinking something just before being caught by the field inspector.
Psychiatrists said the mask can add to some people’s anxiety levels. “Lots of people feel the mask is an imposition on their life. This is most common among Covid-19 recovered patients who had to stay in a hospital for days in isolation among medical staffers,” said Dr Sagar Mundada, a city-based psychiatrist.
Masks are effective against Covid-19 because they trap droplets that could transmit the infection. “Covid-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads through respiratory droplets, which are ejected when infected people sneeze, cough or talk. Thus, wearing masks is of utmost importance to stop the spread of the virus,” said Rajneesh Bhardwaj, a professor at the department of mechanical engineering, Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), who has been studying how long the virus stays active on surfaces.
Between September 13 and September 26, BMC collected ₹19 lakh as fines from 9,218 people who violated the mask guideline. Since September, the fine is ₹200. Between end-June and September 26, the highest amount in fines (₹615,800 ) has been collected from K West ward (Andheri West), followed by R South ward (Dahisar; ₹6.07 lakh); and C ward (Kalbadevi; ₹560,100). Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner, G North ward (Dharavi, Dadar and Mahim) said economically weaker sections have shown greater compliance with the mask rule. “Slum dwellers are very careful about Covid-19. They know that as they live in clustered and enclosed setups, they have to be more careful and take extra precautions. Many NGOs [non-government organisations] also supply masks in slums like Dharavi every day,” said Dighavkar.
On Tuesday, BMC announced people not wearing masks will not be allowed to avail public transport. Malls, offices and other private compounds have also been instructed to restrict entry to only those wearing masks.