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Don’t say goodbye to your mask yet ::  Prasanta Dash ( CFO, UNICEF Jharkhand )

Ranchi, Jharkhand  | February  | 11, 2021 :: We all have been hearing and reading about the COVID vaccine roll-out and the on-going phase wise vaccinations which have covered the health workers and the frontline workers. But does that mean that COVID-19 pandemic has ended? In short, the answer is that it has not, and this means that we need to continue to wear a mask and follow COVID Appropriate Behaviour, irrespective of vaccination status
As we know that the COVID-19 vaccine is being offered first to healthcare workers, frontline workers and to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities based on evolving pandemic situation, and finally to the remaining population based on the disease epidemiology..
So, the best way to prevent illness from COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to the virus. The virus spreads mainly from person-to-person through close contact.
When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, respiratory droplets are produced. Other people can catch COVID-19 if they breathe in these droplets. In addition, people may become infected if they touch surfaces, such as doorknobs or tables, etc on which infected droplets have landed, and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes.
So the preventive measures are to be followed to reduce the risk of infection with COVID-19. We all need to observe: physical distancing – 2 Gaz ki Duri, stay away from crowded environments where physical distancing cannot be ensured, wear masks properly, ensure hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene.
Further, even after we receive the vaccination, while it may be tempting to throw away the mask, we cannot. Because we can still be susceptible to infection for some time till the vaccine acts and produces immunity in our body, which takes some time. Moreover, it is advisable to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing to avoid spreading infection in case one is asymptomatic.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that masks should be used as part of the comprehensive strategy and measures to suppress transmission and save lives— “when you wear mask, you protect others as well as yourself. Masks work best when everyone wears one.” I often see that in market places, there is no physical distancing and more and more people are without their masks. We need to remind ourselves and everyone around us to wear it to keep ourselves and our families safe.
It is not the time to be complacent. We are fortunate that the infection rate is less as compared to other countries at the moment which are in a state of lockdown still. But we shouldn’t be careless and disregarding COVID appropriate behaviours. Many people have stopped wearing masks, flouting physical distancing rules and other safety practices at public events and marketplaces. The onset of the vaccination drive may have perhaps made people care less about taking precautions and makes many believe that the virus is not there. When I ask people to wear a mask, I often get the response, “Where is Corona, it is not there anymore.”

But, medical science, experts and the Government, on the other hand, stresses that it is wiser to wear masks, based on scientific facts and evidence.
As responsible citizens, we should come together and spread the message about the importance and relevance of wearing mask, washing hands, avoiding crowded places and maintaining physical distancing.

So while we wait to for our turn to get the vaccine and after receiving it also, we shouldn’t leave our masks and continue to follow COVID appropriate behaviour, and cooperate with our health workers who have been working tirelessly since March last year.

The author is the Chief of Field Office of UNICEF Jharkhand

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