MUMBAI: In what seems to be a tacit admission that the government now sees the family itself as a Covid transmission hotspot, people have been advised to start wearing masks inside their homes as well.
Ironically, the advisory is couched in well-meaning phraseology and strives to create an impression that a caring government is trying to allay people’s fears and merely wants to strike a note of caution.
While assertions that wearing face masks at home greatly reduce a person’s risk of catching the virus is stating the obvious, the concerted attempt to catapult the mask from the street into the living room does smack of a fear psychosis that has gripped the government of late.
There is no empirical evidence as of now to suggest that most person-to-person transmission is occurring within households; rather, there is greater evidence of rush to loosen the Covid curbs and unfettered permission to social, political and religious gatherings that is responsible for the current spurt.
Experts say that as it is the prospect of outsiders coming into one’s home is unsettling and unnerving — the ‘outsiders’ are often relatives and friends who may want to visit or the repair person you badly need to fix an AC unit. But while such intrusions need to be greeted with a mask, one wonders how much one should worry about those who live under the same roof.
Of course, it makes sense for the symptomatic person — and you — to mask up when in shared spaces until the symptomatic person can get tested, but to stretch this analogy to include parents and children is crossing the threshold of what constitutes ‘concern’ and borders on paranoid.
The government reasoning is that research has shown that if no physical distancing measures are followed, one person can infect 406 people in 30 days; and if physical exposure is reduced by 50 per cent then one person can infect around 15 people during the period. And, if physical exposure is reduced by 75 per cent, then one person can infect around 2.5 people in 30 days.
Addressing a joint press conference with other senior functionaries, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Lav Agarwal said many people have been found to be occupying hospital beds out of panic. Hospital admission should only be on the advice of doctors, he stressed. The government has also asked hospitals to resort to judicious use of oxygen and to plug leaks, if any.
On shortage of medical oxygen, the government said enough of it is available, but the challenge is to transport it to hospitals. It also underscored the need for rational and appropriate use of prescription of drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab. The government said effectiveness of Remdesivir on critical patients is "not well-established" yet.