Srinagar: The importance of wearing masks and maintaining social distancing has only increased after five people were tested positive for Omicron in the valley.
However, there is still confusion regarding the most effective masks against the virus and its many variants.
Health experts said cloth masks may prove ineffective against filtering particles.
HOD Community Medicine, Government Medical College, Srinagar, Dr. Muhammad Salim Khan said it took 25 days to move from 100 to 1000 cases a day due to deadly Delta variant during the second Covid wave in Jammu & Kashmir.
“Omicron took just half of that time that is 13 days. It’s spreading very fast. Please mask up. Also, it’s always preferred to use N-95 and triple-layer masks. Cloth masks and designer masks don’t provide the required protection against Covid viruses,” Dr. Khan said.
Community Medicine Specialist Dr. Sheikh Mohammad Saleem said cotton, cloth, fabric masks may be ineffective against Omicron.
“Such masks were initially administered to the general public in the first wave due to a lack of N95 masks for healthcare staff and laboratory professionals. When a three-layer surgical mask and a cotton/cloth/fabric mask are used combined, they are more effective than when used separately,” Dr. Saleem said.
He emphasized that since Omicron is highly transmissible, such mask protection is ineffective and may even contribute to its spread by providing a false sense of security in terms of transmission and protection.
“The best-recommended mask by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India for patients and those attending them is the N-95 mask. The mask must fit a wide range of facial sizes,” Dr. Saleem said.
Resident doctor at SMHS Hospital Srinagar Dr. Irtifa Kanth pointed out that people should necessarily wear masks every time they have to leave their homes.
“Especially in a place where there is a gathering. Sometimes if you have a high-risk person, like an elderly, immunocompromised person in your family, masks should be worn inside also particularly when a person who is not part of your household comes to your home,” Dr. Irtifa said.
He noted there are some myths around masks that need to be busted.
“People with respiratory problems should wear masks more strictly. It is a myth that wearing masks will reduce your breathing capability,” he said.
The Omicron variant is much more transmissible than Delta. Across the country, the cases are spreading like wildfire, and still, the biological characteristics of this variant are relatively unknown.
On Tuesday, five people tested positive for the Omicron variant in Kashmir. It included a male from the Shopian district who has recovered and tested negative for the virus. Second is a female from Uri in Baramulla, who is recovering. The remaining three cases are non-locals who have gone back.