The wearing of face coverings is among the simplest ways of curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In India, however, the Supreme Court has worries.
The World Health Organization released updated guidelines for the wearing of face coverings earlier this week. It said “in areas of known or suspected community or cluster COVID-19 transmission, WHO advises people to wear a mask, in indoor or in outdoor settings, where physical distancing of at least one meter cannot be maintained. When indoors with others, people should wear a mask unless ventilation has been assessed to be adequate.
“At home, people should wear a mask when receiving visitors if they cannot maintain distance or assess that ventilation is good.”
The wearing of masks is a preventative measure – not just against COVID-19, but also against other airborne infectious conditions and environmental hazards such as air pollution. However, India’s Supreme Court is concerned about public compliance with wearing face coverings, as well as physical distancing.
In a hearing on Thursday, a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and also comprised of Justices R. Subhash Reddy and M. R. Shah asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta what measures could be taken to enforce the rules. The bench did, however, stay a Gujarat order mandating community service for those who fail to wear face coverings in public at COVID-19 care centres.
In related news, with COVID-19 vaccine candidates showing promise, the hope is that a return to normalcy is on the horizon. However, senior medical professionals have warned that measures such as the wearing of face coverings and physical distancing may still need to be protocol. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Dr Bharam Bhagarva recently outlined the country’s plans for vaccine rollout, but also stated “[a] mask is like a fabric vaccine. We cannot ignore the contribution made by masks in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“We are working on vaccines, five candidates are undergoing [trials] in India. Out of these, two are being developed by India which three are from abroad. But vaccines won’t be enough to end Covid-19. We will have to keep following health and safety protocols,”