COVID-19: Face masks in short supply, govt recommends “homemade” face covers

Staring at a huge shortage of face masks across the country as India battles Covid-19, the Centre has now come out with an advisory saying “homemade face cover is a good method for maintaining personal hygiene” and that “people who are not suffering from medical conditions or having breathing difficulties may use the handmade reusable face cover, particularly when they step out of their house”.

The advisory has been made by the Office of Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India and has been released by the Union Health Ministry.

Ever since India went into a 21-day lockdown starting March 24, the non-availability of specified protective face masks in several parts across the country has only added to the sense of unease being witnessed by the people. The Health Ministry, too, has been at pains to convey that not everybody needs to wear a mask. But with Covid-19 assuming alarming proportions the world over, there has been a scramble in India too, to procure face masks.

As per official information, N95 marks are being manufactured by two domestic producers in India and that they are able to supply 50,000 masks per day at the moment. The manufacturers have now been told to ramp up capacities to make 1 lakh masks per day.

The Health Ministry has further said that hospitals in India currently have 11.95 lakh N95 masks in stock as of now and that 10 lakh face masks are being sourced from Singapore as part of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits.

“We are aware that social distancing and personal hygiene are keys to prevent COVID 19 infections. Certain countries have claimed benefits of homemade face cover for the general public. Such homemade face cover is a good method for maintaining personal hygiene. Such usage certainly will help in maintaining overall hygienic health conditions,” the government has now said.

The advisory, however, makes it clear that this homemade “face cover is not recommended for either health workers or those working with or in contact with COVID 19 patients or are patients themselves as these categories of people are required to wear specified protective gear”.

The government has said that two sets of such face covers be made so that one can be washed while the other is used. “Hand washing would still remain essential criteria and hand should be washed before wearing the face cover. Such face covers should also not be thrown anywhere but kept safely, washed properly with soap and hot water and dried properly before they are used,” the advisory states.

It has been further stated that these face covers could be made out of clean cloth available at home, which needs to be thoroughly cleaned and washed before a face cover is stitched/made. “The face cover should be prepared in such a manner that it can cover the mouth and nose completely and can be tied over the face easily,” the advisory says adding that “there must not be a sharing of face covers and a face cover must be used by only one individual”.

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