COVID-19 has been on a relentless march over humanity since 10 months. Infecting and snuffing out numerous lives. Globally the virus has infected 33.4 million. About a million have lost their lives. The pandemic has had India too in its stranglehold. 6.15 million Indians have been infected and 96,318 have perished. There seems to be no letup of the ‘viral death dance’. However, countries like New Zealand and South Korea have had the last laugh over the virus. No light at the end of the long uncertain tunnel is neigh for rest of the world. Second wave of infection is already being suspected in some nations. Places like Kerala, the Southern Indian state which received global accolades for having flattened the viral curve initially seem to experience late resurgence of cases. Kerala currently records daily case count of around 8,000.  The medical world has had nothing to offer in terms of effective treatment since SARS-Co-V-2 took to its pandemic ways since December 2019. An effective vaccine also seems to be playing hide-and-seek with healthcare providers.

Therefore, the only sensible option seems to be to deny the virus entry into potential victims. Every potential portal of entry into the human host needs to be barricaded. The host ought to be rendered out-of-bounds to the contagion.  

The following measures have been found effective in rendering human hosts ‘virus-proof’. The world seems not to tire of reiterating these measures. It’s imperative that they be repeated like prayer chant. Because they seem to have survived the test of time, though short.

These are;

  • Social Distancing-individuals are to maintain a distance of at least a meter between them while interacting. Avoiding crowded environs viz; places of worship, classrooms, movie theatres, social functions is to be strictly followed to achieve social distancing
  • Hand hygiene- meticulous hand hygiene by using disinfectants or washing of hands with soap and running water. This practically closes the gate to transmission of virus through fomites. Hands free of virus limit the virus being carried to portals of infection viz; nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Use of masks. Masks serve as effective physical barrier that denies virus entry into crucial portals like the nose and mouth. People have gone a step further by augmenting barricading effect of the masks on the virus by using face shields. Markets are flooded with various types of masks, each claiming efficacy over the other. Whatever be the mask used, it should be broad enough to effectively cover the nose and mouth. It should be tight enough leaving no space between it and facial contours of the user that no air is let in during inspiration and out during expiration. Masks serve two purposes; 1.To prevent infection of the uninfected with the virus while interacting with the infected, and 2.To prevent the infected from transmitting the virus colonizing their upper aero digestive tract while interacting with the uninfected. The person donning the mask has the responsibility to ensure it adequately covers the nose and mouth so that the viral load transmitted to others is bare minimum. Severity of COVID-19 has convincingly proved to be directly proportional to the viral load infecting people.

But, the reality remains that masks are improperly donned. Majority have masks dangling about their necks like necklaces, or skirting the chins like beard. Others use lose masks with noses sticking out over their upper border much like nosey peeping toms peeping over the walls into their neighbors’ abodes. Masks thus worn improperly and carelessly are akin to not using them at all. Politicians giving speeches or addressing the media do not use masks. They seem to be under the impression that people are impressed with their features. Far from it!  Improperly donned masks defeats the very purpose of using them.

Nothing exemplies this better than Kerala’s recent spurt in cases. Especially in her capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. After relatively tame early days of the pandemic in Kerala, with not a single case reported on many days in May, the southern Indian state experienced a surge in cases with homecoming of her citizens stranded in other countries and states. This wasn’t unexpected. Recently Thiruvananthapuram witnessed widespread agitation on the streets spearheaded by opposition parties demanding resignation of a scam-tainted minister of the incumbent ministry. Visual media telecast visuals of skirmishes between agitators and police personnel. Most of them did not have masks in the right places. Nobody expects that from a crowd of hooligans instigated by selfish netas with selfish single-point agenda- to topple the incumbent government and occupy seats of power in its place. It wasn’t expected out of police personnel instructed to restore normalcy.

Thiruvananthapuram witnessed a violent group of people flouting social distancing with masks nowhere near their faces. And the result is there for all to see. COVID cases skyrocketed on subsequent days in Thiruvananthapuram, tarnishing Kerala’s viral statistics. Adding to her active cases, and people dying.               

 A vaccine against COVID-19 is yet to emerge from laboratories. Masks are, according to experts stand-in vaccine until a proper vaccine emerges from among pipettes and viral cell lines on laboratory worktables after passing prescribed phases of properly conducted and unhurried clinical trials.