- N95 masks do not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask
- N95 masks with valves only suitable for healthcare workers: Health Ministry
- Ministry of Health advises people to wear home made 3 ply mask
New Delhi: “The use of valved respirator N-95 masks is detrimental to the measures adopted for preventing the spread of coronavirus,” said the Union Health Ministry, warning against the used of such masks. As people adapt to the ‘new normal’ of living with the coronavirus, they have realised that wearing masks is definitely an important part of it, to prevent catching SARS-CoV-2. However, when it comes to the usage of N95 masks, the Ministry of Health claims that it does not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask.
The Director-General of Health Services (DGHS) in the Ministry of Health, Rajiv Garg, in a letter to the Principal Secretaries of health and medical education of states, said that they have observed an “inappropriate use” of N-95 masks, particularly those with a valved respirator, by the public other than designated health workers.
I request you to instruct all concerned to follow the use of face/mouth cover and prevent inappropriate use of N-95 masks, Mr Garg said in the letter.
Dr Mehta, Professor from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhopal, supported the Ministry claims as she told NDTV, that such masks do not help in containing the virus, which is the intended purpose.
We are advising people to wear masks because we want to contain the droplet transfer of COVID-19. But if an infected person is wearing a mask with the valve, the droplet can easily escape, and defeats the purpose. It’s better to stick to a minimum of 3-ply mask for everyone instead, she advised.
A 3 ply mask refers to a mask having three layers of fabric.
When we asked Dr Mehta, how are these masks appropriate for healthcare workers, if they do not prevent the escape of SARS-CoV-2, she said,
Healthcare workers who are active and wearing these masks are not necessarily infected because they are tested on a regular basis. However, that is not an excuse to stick to. The thing is, healthcare workers, don’t wear only the mask, as the general public does. They wear a face shield and Personal Protective Equipments (PPE), on top of the mask. Moreover, the N95 masks are important for us to wear because we are working on the front line, and it helps protect us.
The DGHS in the letter further referred to the advisory on the use of homemade masks which they said is available on the website of the Ministry of Health.
Back in April, the ministry had issued an advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth, asking people to wear it when they step out of their residences. This advisory said that any used cotton cloth can be used to make face cover. But stressed that these face covers must be washed and cleaned each day.
The colour of the fabric does not matter but one must ensure that the fabric is washed well in boiling water for five minutes and dried well before making the face cover, the ministry advised.
It also recommended adding salt to the water, in which face covers are washed. The advisory also lists the procedures for making homemade masks, where it stresses on the importance of the fit of the mask, without any gaps on the sides.
Never share the face cover with anyone. Every member in a family should have separate face cover, the advisory stated.
It also urges people to wash hands thoroughly before wearing the face cover, switching to another fresh one as the face cover becomes damp or humid, and never to reuse it after single use without cleaning it.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.