“My ears hurt”, “It fogs my glasses” and “I can’t breathe”—These are the three most common excuses Nepalis give for not wearing a mask. “I’m fully-vaccinated” makes it to the top five, though this isn’t as common an answer considering that less than four percent of the total population has received the second dose so far.
Only one or two out of every 10 people on the street are seen wearing a mask properly. By properly we mean not strapped on the chin, with the top of the mask on the upper lip, or dangling from an ear. We counted, on the sidewalk in Jawalakhel, Lalitpur, in front of St Xavier’s School, on the stretch between Hotel Himalaya and Nabil Bank in Kupondole, Lalitpur, and the the road that leads to Dillibazaar from Maitidevi, Kathmandu.
Evidence suggests wearing a mask or a face covering can reduce the risk of transmitting coronavirus. Experts say that people still have to wear a mask, whether or not they have been vaccinated because we still fall in a high-risk zone with over 27,000 active cases and daily new infections rising steadily. Nepal reported 1,223 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, 1,642 on Monday, and 2,202 s on Tuesday.
According to WHO representative to Nepal Dr Rajesh Sambhajirao Pandav, Covid-19 vaccines have proven to be safe, effective and life-saving. But like all vaccines, they do not fully protect everyone vaccinated. “We do not yet know how well they can prevent people from transmitting the virus to others,” he adds.
Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson at the Ministry of Health and Population, says many people are either layering mask upon mask or using the same surgical mask for days. A tightly fitted surgical mask or a cotton one with three layers will suffice, he adds. But it’s absolutely crucial to wear one.
However, mask-wearing isn’t a replacement for other measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19. It works best in combination with measures like handwashing, staying at least six-feet apart from other people, and ventilation of indoor spaces.
“We urge everyone to continue to strictly adhere to public, health and social measures including the use of masks, physical distancing and proper hand and respiratory hygiene,” says Dr Pandav.