There has been a slight rise in number of active COVID-19 cases in India on Saturday. But the country is slowly seeing some of the rules being eased up. One question that comes to many minds is: I have taken my two doses of vaccine, do I still need to wear a mask?
Many countries such as the US, Israel, New Zealand, England, and Bhutan have made wearing of masks in public non-mandatory. However, some experts say that wearing a mask is a reasonable precaution since it’s still possible to get infected even after getting fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Though the US had eased rules on wearing masks on May 13, saying that fully vaccinated individuals can safely do most activities without wearing a mask or the need to social distance from others. But the US is once again seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths. As of July 22, 35 per cent of US counties are experiencing high levels of community transmission. Covid-19 cases are on the rise in nearly 90 per cent of US jurisdictions. The CDC says the recent hike in cases is due to the rapid spread of the highly transmissible B.1.617.2 or Delta variant, which was first reported in India.
Despite a rise in cases, the CDC has not revised its masking guidelines. However, several states in the US have issued separate guidelines for their residents, making wearing of masks in public or indoors mandatory.
Israel was the first country to lift the mandatory face mask rule, when it achieved low rates of symptomatic Covid-19 disease in April and vaccinated 70 per cent of its population. China, which was one of the worst-hit countries at the beginning of the pandemic, made masks non-mandatory after it brought the disease under control through strict lockdowns.
Similar to China, New Zealand also stopped the spread of Covid-19 among its population using non-pharmaceutical interventions such as tracking, tracing, and isolation of cases. The country also has a mandatory mask rule.
In England, the legal requirement to wear face-covering has ended. But the government guidance says it "expects and recommends" the continued wearing of masks in crowded areas such as public transport.
Bhutan became mask-free after vaccinating 90 per cent of its population in just two weeks.
Though Covid-19 vaccines greatly reduce the chance of severe illness and death, some experts said wearing a mask is a reasonable precaution since it’s still possible to get infected.
The US surgeon general during the Trump administration, Jerome Adams, said the CDC urgently needs to revise its guidance on masking to combat the rapid growth in Covid-19 infections driven by the Delta variant.
“Personally, I continue to wear a mask when going into public spaces outside of my household, both for my own protection and for the sake of my community,” virus researcher Angela Rasmussen of University of Saskatchewan told the Associated Press.
Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, told AP that people who are older or have health issues should wear a mask when outside.
The May 13 CDC guidelines also mention that anyone who has a medical condition or is taking medications that weaken the immune system may not be protected even if they are fully vaccinated.
CAN INDIA ALLOW RELAXATIONS ON MASKS RULE?
In India, over eight crore people have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine. Even as many state governments have relaxed Covid-related restrictions, wearing of masks and social distancing are mandatory practices.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare states that it is absolutely necessary that everyone who has received the Covid-19 vaccine should continue to follow the Covid-appropriate behaviour.
Moreover, with only eight crore out of over 130 crore population fully vaccinated, mandatory masks and social distancing rules do not seem to be going anywhere in India for now.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)