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We’ve been living with Covid-19 for two years now, and let’s just say, we are pretty much accustomed to the ‘new normal’. Wearing masks seems like second nature today, but how long are we going to continue wearing them? The joy of breathing free without any caution seems like a thing of the past, but will these days be over anytime soon? Should we give up on masks? These very relevant questions have been answered by Dr Dipu TS, Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, Amrita Hospitals, Kochi.
He tells Health Shots, “It’s understandable that many of us are naturally immune to Covid-19 or have developed immunity, due to vaccination. And hence, we have crossed the herd immunity threshold, which was predicted at the start of the pandemic. Hence, the question of removal of masks is to be debated.”
Dr Dipu TS adds that we are already seeing countries like the UK accept that Covid is now an endemic disease. Moreover, they have relaxed the restrictions, and are urging citizens to move on with their lives. Masks, too, are NOT mandatory.
As much as we would like to, Dr Dipu TS says that we can’t approach the issue like developed nations. “We have a large population, in which there are many high-risk vulnerable groups, so a missed step or a wrong policy has the potential to claim many lives. Hence, it would be prudent for us to follow a more cautious approach, especially since we are seeing Covid-19 variants coming one after another causing multiple waves,” he says.
Once we see a consistently lower rate of new Covid-19 cases, we can do a staged approach of removing the mask first among the healthy and fully vaccinated individuals in outdoor settings. In case this step is not causing a surge in cases, we can consider applying it to the wider population.
“As a policy, we should continue to protect the high-risk vulnerable group. The removal of masks in indoor settings must be considered last,” he concludes.
At least, for now, do not let your guard down and continue following all the safety protocols. Wear a proper, well-fitted mask, maintain a safe distance, sanitize your hands, and get fully vaccinated.