As America rolls out “Masks for all”, 2 in 3 surveyed keen that India takes up a mission to get protective masks to every Indian
- ● Of Indians who are using masks, 2 in 3 are still wearing cloth masks and need to upgrade their masks to N-95/KN-95/FFP2
- ● 73% citizens who support this, say Government of India should fund this program and enable CSR capital to fund any shortfall
January 21, 2022, New Delhi: American President Joe Biden yesterday announced a free mask for all program under which 400 million masks will be made available to the American public for pickup from pharmacies and community health centers across the country. In India too, the Prime Minister as well as chief ministers have been stressing the importance of wearing masks once again, with Tamil Nadu increasing fines for non-compliance last week. States and Union Territories of India are on high alert after the surge in COVID cases by 60 times over the past four weeks. The country now has over 500 districts recording a TPR of over 5%, out of which, over 200 districts are recording a TPR of over 10%. The 2-dose Covishield-Astrazeneca efficacy has been reported to be low against Omicron. This is greatly concerning for India as Covishield (Astrazeneca) vaccine accounts for 90% of jabs given in the country. With limited to no protection against the variant and a booster program just available to the most vulnerable, wearing a mask remains the only absolute defence against contracting the infection.
There has been an introduction of several kinds of masks since the beginning of the pandemic. However, medical experts have suggested that most provide limited protection from COVID. As per the new guidelines from World Health Organisation, appropriate mask use is critical to ensure effectiveness and reduce the risk of transmission. Based on research in the public domain, LocalCircles has put together what it takes for Omicron to transmit between two individuals (infected and vulnerable) based on their masking status and when they are indoors & 6 feet apart. The time required to reach an infectious dose for an individual from an infected individual if both are wearing an N-95 mask is 3 hours 24 minutes of exposure for the Omicron variant of SARS-COV2. However, the time required to reach an infectious dose for an individual from an infected individual if neither is wearing a mask or are wearing a cloth mask is just 2 minutes of exposure. The time required increases to 4 minutes with the vulnerable person wearing a surgical mask, and 20 minutes with an N-95 mask. Thus, it is extremely important for citizens to wear masks at all times and ensure that the mask used, protects against the new variant.
A December 2021 survey conducted by LocalCircles found that 1 in 3 Indians are not even carrying a mask when stepping out of home, with only 2% citizens studied rating mask compliance in their district/area as effective. Further, 2 in 3 Indians were found to be wearing cloth masks that provide limited protection from COVID. Experts suggest that N-95 or KN-95 masks are now a necessity with surgical masks providing limited protection and cloth masks providing near-zero protection.
For many Indians, while a cloth mask can be made at home and surgical masks cost less than INR 5, while an N-95 or KN-95 costing between INR 50-100 is not affordable especially for the whole family and the requirement to replace it every week. Several LocalCircles members discussed the need for Government to distribute free N-95/KN-95 masks for every household and to understand if the idea has larger public consensus, LocalCircles has conducted a survey to understand the same. The survey received more than 18,500 responses from citizens residing in 307 districts of India. 65% of respondents were men while 35% were women. 44% of respondents were from tier 1, 32% from tier 2 and 24% of respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.
Protective Masks for all: 2 in 3 citizens want Government of India to immediately roll out a mission to ensure every Indian gets free N-95/KN-95/FFP2 mask
One of the issues in India for cloth masks and surgical masks being used more commonly is the cost of the masks like N-95/KN-95/FFP2. These protective masks cost anywhere between INR 60-INR 200 while the surgical and cloth masks cost less than INR 10. However, if such masks were made available for free along with some awareness literature, there is a high possibility that many will start using them atleast during times of a COVID wave. This could have a significant positive impact in minimising the spread.
The first question in the survey asked citizens, “Should the Government of India immediately roll out a mission to ensure every home gets free N-95/KN-95/FFP2 mask?” In response, 28% said “No” and 5% did not have an opinion. The majority of 67% of citizens said “Yes” they want the Government of India to immediately roll out a mission to ensure every Indian gets free N-95/KN-95/FFP2 mask. This question in the survey received 9,902 responses.
Protective Masks for all mission: 73% citizens who support such a mission say Government of India should fund this program and enable CSR capital to fund any shortfall
The next question asked citizens “What is the best way to fund a ‘compliant mask for all’ program for the public at large so quality masks (N-95/KN-95/FFFP2) reach every individual?” In response, 73% of citizens said, “Government should fund whatever it can and raise the remainder from corporates via CSR but taxes shouldn’t be increased”. There were also 19% of citizens who said, “Government should enable corporates to donate CSR funds for the program” and 4% said “Government should fund it and raise taxes via a special cess while 4% did not have an opinion. On an aggregate basis, 73% of citizens who support this mission say the Government of India should fund this program and enable CSR capital to fund any shortfall. This question in the survey received 8,740 responses.
With daily cases rising 60 times over the last month, the need of the hour is to act and act now. The findings of the survey indicate that 2 in 3 citizens want the Government of India to immediately roll out a mission to ensure every Indian gets a free N-95/KN-95/FFP2 mask. The Government must consider amending CSR rules as required if it cannot fund such a mission but there should be zero delays in implementation. With 300 districts recording a TPR of over 5%, the mission could commence from those districts and eventually reach districts with lower TPR as mask supply capacity is scaled.
A pandemic is easier to fight when everyone participates and does their bit. If a high majority of Indians who either do not wear a mask or use a cloth mask get access to a protective mask, it will likely lead to lowering the spread of the virus during the current wave and any other waves to come. LocalCircles will there escalate the findings of the above survey to the Central Government and all State Governments so this important public demand can be given the importance it deserves.
18,500 responses from citizens residing in 307 districts of India. 65% of respondents were men while 35% were women. 44% of respondents were from tier 1, 32% from tier 2 and 24% of respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.