‘Install face mask vending machines or provide them at minimal cost’

Sarin said, “Let us face the truth that we do not have a vaccine for Covid-19 yet, therefore it is indispensable to develop strategies keeping this in mind.”
Dr SK Sarin

New Delhi, May 19 : With coronavirus cases in India crossing the 1 lakh mark and in the backdrop of the fresh relaxations of the lockdown measures, it is essential to install face mask vending machines or provide them in public transports at a nominal cost across the nation, feels S.K. Sarin, an eminent Delhi-based gastroenterologist at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS)

In an interview with IANS, Sarin said, “Let us face the truth that we do not have a vaccine for Covid-19 yet, therefore it is indispensable to develop strategies keeping this in mind.”

Sarin insisted that sooner or later, people will begin to move out more frequently and use public transports. But using public transports or moving out in market places without wearing face masks will make people more vulnerable to the dreaded virus.

According to a media report, face mask vending machines have already emerged on the streets of the UK. A company, maskey.co.uk, is selling customised designs using ordinary vending machines by removing the refrigerating units. In Singapore and Germany also, face masks are being sold through these machines.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q: India has crossed 1 lakh Covid-19 cases. The markets have reopened and people will begin to move out more frequently and use public transports. What should be done to contain the spread of Covid-19 in such a scenario?

A: In DTC buses and public transports across the country, face masks can be provided to people for free or at a minimal cost. In Metro stations, face mask vending machines can be installed for people. Face mask is important to fight the viral infection. An infected person can pass on a severe high dose of virus to the next person, if the exposure is for a long time. If everybody wears masks, it will ensure minimal exposure, which will be less harmful.

Q: Covid-19 cases are increasing rapidly since May. Though we have a low mortality rate, isn’t this worrying?

A: It is essential to keep the mortality rate and the number of people getting sick as low as possible. And to achieve this, in the absence of a vaccine, it is crucial to wear masks while moving out. The real worry is people getting sick and succumbing to the viral infection. Usually, most people have Covid-19 symptoms, but they do not get sick. Flu is much more common than Covid-19. People are slightly more protected against cold and cough, as they have built immunity.

Q: A large number of people have already built immunity against cold and cough, would it help in achieving herd immunity?

A: Unless a large number of people are not exposed, immunity will not come. It’s better to have mild symptomatic infection. As we are already testing more, it is leading to more cases. The number of infections is not the real cause of worry. We need to keep the mortality rate and people becoming sick down. Until the time we develop a vaccine, herd immunity can protect us. Therefore, people should move out only if it’s required, that too wearing face masks at all times.

Q: What is your view on the increasing number of cases in Delhi?

A: Currently, we are recording 500 cases a day and the rate of doubling is decreasing. It seems the numbers may go up to 1,000 a day. Therefore, it is essential to wear face masks as much as possible.

(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at [email protected])

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