Even with Omicron detected, 1 in 3 Indians still avoid wearing a mask



December 4, 2021, New Delhi: Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Family Welfare announced that 2 cases of the Omicron variant had been found in Bangalore. In addition, COVID-positive samples from more than a dozen travelers are genomically tested in laboratories in India for the Omicron variant. The variant, which has scientists and epidemiologists around the world raising red flags, was classified as a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organization earlier this week after being identified in 3 countries. Within a week, Omicron was detected in over 40 countries around the world, including all major countries.

The latest data suggests that the variant has between 30-50 mutations and likely a 500% transmission advantage over the base or alpha variant of COVID. The Union Ministry of Health has alerted all states and Union territories to be vigilant and to increase testing and surveillance, with special guidelines being implemented for the screening and testing of international passengers . Most experts remain uncertain about the vaccine’s effectiveness against the new variant, leaving the use of the mask and social distancing as the only absolute preventive measure. WHO has also called on countries to take preventive measures such as hand hygiene, physical distancing, improved ventilation and wearing well-fitting masks.

There has been an introduction of several kinds of masks since the start of the pandemic. However, medical experts have suggested that most offer limited protection against COVID. Data published by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) indicates that the time taken to reach an infectious dose for an individual from an infected individual is 1667 hours of exposure if both wear an N-95 mask and are 6 feet apart. for the Alpha variant of SARS-COV2. If the N-95 mask fits properly in either case, research indicates that it takes 677 hours of exposure to reach an infectious dose. However, the time required to reach an infectious dose for an individual from an infected individual if neither is wearing a mask is 10 minutes of exposure. The time required increases to 14 minutes with the vulnerable person wearing a sheet mask, 20 minutes with a surgical mask, 50 minutes with an N-95 mask, and 16.7 hours if the vulnerable person wears a properly fitted N-95 mask when the contagious person does not wear a mask. Since the Omicron variant is considered to be more transmissible, the time it takes to expose an individual to the infected person could be much shorter. Thus, it is extremely important for citizens to wear masks at all times and to ensure that the mask used offers protection against the new variant.

With nearly 125 crore of vaccine doses administered in India and cases dropping to less than 10,000 new cases per day, citizens have surely let their guard down. Mask compliance has declined significantly, as indicated in a previous survey by LocalCircles in November 2021, which found mask compliance reached new lows during the holiday season, with just 2% of citizens saying the mask compliance is effective in their region or district. To understand if the situation has changed after the detection of Omicron in India, LocalCircles conducted another in-depth investigation to understand how citizens rate mask compliance in their region, district or city. The survey received over 25,000 responses from citizens residing in 364 districts of India. 69% of the respondents were men while 31% of the respondents were women. 41% of the respondents were from level 1, 30% were from level 2 and 29% of the respondents were from levels 3, 4 and rural districts.

Mask compliance drops dramatically with just 2% now saying people in their region / city / district are complying well

The first survey question asked citizens, “With the identification of the new variant and the increase in cases in other parts of the world, how are people in your city / district / region now complying with the? mask wearing standards? In response, 8% of citizens said there was no compliance. Breaking down the poll, 19% said 0-30% of people are compliant, 32% said 30-60% of people are compliant, and 39% said 60-90% of people are compliant. Only 2% of citizens reported that people in their region / city / district are complying well. This survey question received 8,633 responses.

Mask compliance drops dramatically with just 2% now saying people in their region / city / district are complying well

Although the Omicron variant has been detected in India, only 2% of Indians report that mask compliance is effective in their city / district / region

Mask compliance has declined since cases began to decline after the 2nd wave of the pandemic. In a survey conducted by LocalCircles in April 2021, only 29% of citizens rated mask compliance in their city / district / region as high. This percentage fell further to 12% in September 2021. During the holiday season, with shopping and socializing in the country, mask compliance dropped significantly to just 2% in November 2021. Percentage of citizens who rate the compliance of the mask. mask high in their city / region / district remains low at 2% despite the threat of the Omicron variant in December 2021.

Although the Omicron variant has been detected in India, only 2% of Indians report that mask compliance is effective in their city / district / region

1 in 3 Indians say most people in their city / district / region do not wear a mask when leaving their homes

There remains great uncertainty regarding the Omicron variant, with scientists and epidemiologists suggesting that it is probably 5 times more transmissible and studies are still being done to understand the effectiveness of existing vaccines against it. Respect for the mask, according to them, remains the absolute best defense against this. Taking this into consideration, the next question asked citizens about the current situation of people regarding respect for masks in their city / district / region. In response, 34% said most people don’t even have a mask with them now and 23% said most have a mask with them but don’t wear it at all. There were also 38% of citizens who said most had a mask but did not wear it properly. Only 5% said most had a mask and wore it correctly. Globally, 1 in 3 Indians do not even wear a mask when leaving their home. This question in the survey 8,413 answers.

1 in 3 Indians say most people in their city / district / region do not wear a mask when leaving their homes

2 in 3 Indians wear sheet masks that offer limited protection against COVID

While there has been an introduction of many types of masks since the pandemic began in 2020, experts suggest that the N-95 or KN-95 masks are now a necessity, with surgical masks offering limited protection and fabric masks offering almost no protection. This focus has evolved from early 2020, when any mask was acceptable until now, as the virus has been proven to be airborne and therefore masks with high levels of protection are a must. . To understand what Indians are currently wearing, citizens were asked what type of mask they most often see wearing in their city / district / region. In response, 21% said that residents of their city / district / region wear disposable surgical masks (the blue one). 8% said “Mask N-95” and 3% each said “Mask KN-95 or W-95” and “others”. “N-95 mask with valve” while another 1% couldn’t tell. The majority of citizens, 63%, reported a cloth mask. The survey result suggests that 2 in 3 Indians wear fabric masks that offer limited protection against COVID. This survey question received 8,779 responses.

2 in 3 Indians wear sheet masks that offer limited protection against COVID

In summary, mask compliance remains at its lowest level in the country despite the detection of the Omicron variant in India, with just 2% now claiming that people in their region / city / district are complying well. In addition, the survey found that one in three Indians say that most people in their city / district / region do not even wear a mask when leaving their homes. The need of the hour is to educate the public on the effectiveness of masks, as 2 in 3 Indians still wear cloth masks that offer limited protection against COVID. This means that if Omicron starts to spread in India the population is very vulnerable due to poor mask discipline and no matter what time people wear masks the majority of them wear one that does not provide adequate protection. It is essential that the central government, state governments and district administrations put in place all possible mechanisms to educate the public about the compliance of masks in light of the Omicron variant and apply the sanctions necessary to promote such compliance.


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