Wearing Masks for Protecting Lives, Jobs and Economy from COVID-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has emerged as a serious threat to our health, economy and social life, which gets minimized substantially by simply wearing a mask at workplaces and in public spaces. This small piece of clothing has the ability to potentially save our lives, jobs and the economy.
In offices, which are enclosed spaces, the practice of wearing masks becomes particularly important. It boosts the confidence of employees and assures them that their workplace is safe, resulting in higher work productivity.
Also, wearing masks would facilitate uninterrupted work in industries, leading to protection of jobs. In such a scenario, migrant workers may not move from their workplaces to their hometowns.
As we are aware, a vaccine is yet to be developed to fight the virus; there isn’t any medicine either to treat someone suffering from Covid-19. Therefore, regulating person-to-person contact to an absolute minimum level is the key strategy right now to fight the disease.
To minimize interpersonal contact, a series of nationwide lockdowns has been applied by the Government. If every citizen wears a mask, maintains the prescribed distance while interacting with others, and follows other protocols of the pandemic management with due diligence, the lockdown may either be lifted completely, or significant relaxations made during the lockdown period.
“Wearing of face cover is compulsory in all public and workplaces,” has been explicitly stated at the very beginning in the national directives for Covid-19 management. Further, to encourage the use of masks, four key strategies, namely awareness generation, guidelines on the use and reuse of masks, support from the public and the private sector organizations for free availability of masks, and compliance monitoring can be adopted.
First, people should be made fully aware of the benefits of using masks. Wearing mask not only protects us but also protects others from contracting Covid-19. ‘परोपकार परमोधर्म:’ is our core traditional value. As wearing mask protects the lives of others, we should all adopt it as our duty towards each other. The message of serving society by following the essential civic responsibility of using masks needs to be conveyed to all. Reputed institutions, non-profit organizations and social media influencers can play an effective role in convincing people to use masks in public spaces and workplaces.
Second, people need to be made fully aware of ‘how to use and re-use face masks’ through print, social and electronic media.
Third, both the public and the private sector organizations should extend financial support for making facemasks available to the people free of cost. The cost incurred for the free distribution of masks would be less compared to the huge benefits generated from their use. The rate of return on such investment would be extremely high. Funds available under corporate social responsibility may also be used for the purpose.
Fourth, compliance with the national directives for Covid-19 management on use of face cover or mask in public and workplaces needs to be monitored regularly with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) or other suitable technical tools. Such monitoring would provide us valuable feedback for planning better strategies to control the spread of the pandemic.
Generating awareness on the importance of using masks is the need of the hour. Once people are aware and convinced of using masks and free distribution of the same is arranged by the public and the private sector organizations, spread of the pandemic would be minimized substantially. Our valuable lives, jobs and the economy would subsequently get a protective cover.
Jitendra Kumar is Adviser and Rishika Surya is Young Professional in NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.