Homemade cloth masks? Surgical masks? Or N95? It has already been a year since the pandemic and which mask are we still wearing?
Ever since the pandemic began, along with it came to the new dilemmas about our safety. Masks play a significant role in battling the virus by reducing its transmission and spread. With the more protective masks reserved for the health workers, the general public had to rely on the cheaply available cloth masks.
Cloth masks are not all the same in their quality and effectiveness in protection. The material used, the number of layers and the fit matters when it comes to choosing a mask which cannot be certified to homemade masks.
Though the medical authorities advised people to wear at least a cloth mask in the initial stages of the pandemic, it has been proved that it is surgical masks and N95 that does a better job in protecting the person wearing it and preventing transmission. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States still does not recommend the general public to use N95 respirators.
Hence, fraudulent masks are now widely available in the market and most of them do not have a label indicating their manufacturer. No reasonable or credible certification is available for the masks that are supposed to be protecting the people across the globe. Tens of thousands of fake N95 masks were recently seized at an airport in the USA pointing fingers at the government's apathy towards ensuring good masks for people even after a year of pandemic.
While many countries saved up their surgical and N95 masks for the frontline health workers, countries like Taiwan scaled up its production of surgical face masks in the initial months of the pandemic itself, stopped the export of masks from the country and ensured its citizens received a fresh supply of high-quality masks every week. Hong Kong and Singapore have also been distributing laboratory tested high-quality masks to their citizens.
In the wake of the emergence of the new variant of the Coronavirus which is said to be 70 times more transmissible, governments must ensure that its people receive good quality masks unless it is ready to combat multiple waves of fresh infections affecting its people. It is high time governments step up, provide guidance to people about the most effective masks and ensure good quality masks to the general public as well.