Wear masks inside homes as well: Govt
Says unnecessary panic causing more harm than good
New Delhi: As India grappled with a raging second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the government on Monday said it is time people started wearing masks inside their homes as well even as it sought to allay fears saying unnecessary panic is causing more harm than good.
It also pitched for accelerating the pace of the vaccination drive and clarified that women can take COVID-19 vaccine during menstruation as well.
Addressing a joint press conference with other senior functionaries, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Lav Agarwal said many people have been found to be occupying hospital beds out of panic or extra concern.
“We have to understand that beds, oxygen are critical resources. We have to ensure that the use of hospital admission should be as per guidelines and medical prescription. Be it oxygen or any other medicine or any facility, we should follow norms while availing it,” he said.
Amid a shortage of medical oxygen, the government said India has enough medical oxygen available, but the challenge is to transport it to hospitals.
The government said it is taking various measures to ensure adequate supply of oxygen and asked hospitals for its judicious use and to plug leakage, if any.
The officials underlined that in this disease, 85 per cent people will have mild illness and they will get well with symptomatic treatment at home.
NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul said if there is a COVID-19-positive person inside the house, he or she must wear the mask so as to prevent other family members from getting infected.
“Rather, I’ll say that the time has come that we start wearing masks even otherwise inside our homes. We used to talk about wearing it outside homes, but the way the infection has spread, it will be better if we wear mask inside our homes if we are sitting with someone,” he said.
“But, definitely, if there is a COVID-19-positive person, that person must wear the mask and others inside the house also must wear a mask and the positive person should be kept in a different room,” Paul underlined.
His statement came days after a new assessment published in The Lancet journal said there is consistent, strong evidence to prove that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, behind the COVID-19 pandemic, is predominantly transmitted through the air.
Paul added that people should also avoid stepping out of their houses unnecessarily and not invite guests at home.
He also appealed to citizens to help each other in their locality and apartments and lend community support if someone is in isolation or have tested positive and is restricted inside their homes.
AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria, who also addressed the press conference, sought greater community participation to ensure optimal utilisation of hospital facilities.
“We see now there is unnecessary panic among people which is causing more harm than good. It is causing a lot of rush outside hospitals and suffering to genuine patients as they do not get proper treatment. Also, hoarding of drugs at homes is causing unnecessary shortage of essential drugs in markets and also leads to misuse of drugs,” he said.
On the increasing demand for Remdesivir, Dr Guleria said benefits of this drug in treating COVID-19 patients “is not well-established”. The drug has not shown mortality benefits, it is wrong to think of it as a magic bullet, he said.
Agarwal said the cases are on the rise today, so it is important to focus on COVID-19 management with renewed vigour and follow the five approaches — test, track, treat, vaccination and COVID-19-appropriate behaviour.
“Compared to other infections, the COVID virus stays in human host and does not go in intermediate host. If we isolate that human host, then we can stop the spread of infection. So today, when a higher surge is noticed in several states, then we must regulate, control and coordinate unnecessary movement to prevent the spread of infection,” he said.
Early diagnosis of COVID-19 is important and if we identify it on time, then it does not convert into serious infection, he said.
Speaking about the surge in cases this year as compared to the peak in September last year, Agarwal said, “If you see Maharashtra, there is a peak 2.25 times (higher that last year), it is 3.3 times in Karnataka, it is 5 times in Uttar Pradesh. The cases are increasing which a major cause of concern.”
Agarwal said that however much infrastructure is created, it will come under stress looking at the population of the country and added that it is important to curb the infection.
It is important to follow National Clinical Management Protocol for COVID-19 and there should be rational use of oxygen.
The use of investigation therapy medicines like Remdesivir, Tocilizumab should be as per clinical protocols. “Our clinical protocol identifies similarly placed medicines which are not only cheaper but also widely available and our medical fraternity should also prescribe that…the fear among people should come down and we can give effective and required treatment to patients,” he said.
Research has shown that if physical distancing measures are not followed, one person can infect 406 people in 30 days, the government said, adding that if physical exposure is reduced by 50 per cent then one person can infect around 15 people during the period. And, if physical exposure is reduced by 75 per cent, then one person can infect around 2.5 people in 30 days.
The coronavirus situation remained grim in the country with the daily COVID-19 infection tally and death toll touching new peaks in the past few days.
The country recorded 3,52,991 cases, the highest so far, taking the tally of cases to 1,73,13,163 while active cases have crossed the 28-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday.
The death toll increased to 1,95,123 with a record 2,812 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.