Wearing a mask is the way to defeat Covid-19.

Cheap surgical masks are the way

There have been various articles published online about the importance of masks but still, people have doubt about the impact when they wear a mask in the fight against Covid-19. From what I have read and understood, masks do help in the prevention of the spread of the virus in the community. Let’s see why do we need to wear masks and test more.

Various studies have found that the virus is spreading the most through people who are asymptomatic.

Wide scale testing is needed

According to Nicholas A. Christakis who is a Professor of Social & Natural Science at Yale, It is very important to test as much as possible so that we can detect and separate patients.
It was done on a large scale in South Korea, China and Taiwan and that’s how they stopped the virus. Offering free testing using real-time (RRT-PCR)detection of the SARS Cov-2 virus(detecting viral RNA) and fever checks. Read Source – CDC.

A successful disease eradication (eg. Smallpox and SARS in 2002) is facilitated by low transmission by asymptomatic people. Read Sources – 1 & 2.

In India, we don’t have enough kits to test everyone. Testing is going to be the biggest problem here. The more delay we do in testing asymptomatic carriers the more the virus will spread. To tackle this pandemic our medical staff needs to be provided with the necessary equipment to keep them safe which can only be managed by the government but staying at home and wearing a covid-19 mask is the least that we can do as responsible citizens to reduce the workload on our healthcare workers.

Wear a mask

Wear a mask at home too

In a poor country like India, the best we can do is to wear a mask all the time. Wear a mask even when you are home, just in case you got infected while you were out to buy groceries for your family. So that you don’t transfer it to others in your home. Even a cotton mask can be a good covid-19 mask.

Peter Kolchinsky, Virologist and Author of The Great American Drug Deal mentions “We have to conserve masks for healthcare workers, but masks can help anyone, reducing the amount of virus released (even by breathing) or taken in. The immune system is more effective if the infection kept the exposure dose to a minimum. It means that virus has to divide many more times before getting to high levels but immune system starts responding and therefore can flatten the curve, keeping the peak viral load lower, so it does less damage).” Source – Link.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a Lebanese-American essayist, statistician, and author of The Black Swan mentions “Reducing exposure to viruses by 30% thanks to an “imperfect” mask does not mean reducing risk of contracting the disease by just 30%. By convexity, it must be more than 30%, can even be 95%.”

See the proof on right. Read the PDF written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb here.

He further adds “If everyone wore VERY BAD masks, I guess the number of deaths would drop by a huge factor, maybe 90%. Why? p is the probability of infection, look at 1-p^n because everyone is reducing. For 2 people masks act as a 2-way filter, 1-p^2. Yuuge.”

“We need to get the probability of getting sick at different concentration of droplets. We could probably back it up (or get a handle on the convexity) from country data (Czech republic). Intuition: reduction of 70% of particles is yuuuge: home masks should work. Plus if 2-way!” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Trevor Turton put it simply and tweeted “If two people wearing cotton masks meet and one has COVID-19 and cotton stops 70% of the droplets, then each mask allows 30% through and the combined effect is 30% × 30% = 9% of the droplets get through both masks. A 91% overall reduction.”

A team of doctors, biologists, economists, and public health specialists recently concluded that in the case of USA there is $3000-$6000 benefit of every cloth mask worn as it slows the spread of the virus. In the case of health care workers, the benefits may be higher. Source – Link.

Stay at home

Volunteer doing Home delivery
Home delivery

Avoid going out as much as possible. If there are volunteers in your area who are delivering goods then contact them with a list of items you need.  When they come to deliver try to transfer payment online and ask them to drop the things at the door. If you have to meet them then take proper precaution. Wear gloves, ideally a good covid-19 mask(if nothing is at hand wrap a cotton t-shirt) and wash your hands afterwards. Personally, I ask the person to drop the stuff at my door. Pick it up when they are gone and place the goods packet in a corner for the next 24 hours. 

“Surgical masks are paper and plastic, make more. Billions of Asians aren’t wrong. If everyone wears masks, the carriers are less likely to spread it.”

Naval Ravikant

History also tells us that masks save lives. Read this article about how Atlanta defeated the 1918 Spanish flu in which 20 million people died all across the world.

You should be wearing a mask all the time if you have come in contact with anyone from outside, wash your hands as much as possible especially before and after eating, do not touch your face and maintain social distancing.

Wear a mask for the ones you love. #WearForLove

Update May 17th, 2020: Covid-19 is not going to go away till 2022 at least. Scientists all over the world are working on promising vaccines. To make it safe for humans vaccines will have to go through several human trials to monitor their long term effects. This process will take some time and even if a vaccine is found we have a problem with manufacturing.

Bill Gates has said to spend billions of dollars on promising vaccines. This means several billions of dollars can go down the drain to find the one that passes all the tests. Some scientists have ever proposed to the US government to spend 70 billion dollars on vaccines.
Think of it as around paying $100 to the first 300 million people. This money will be spent on investing in promising vaccines and revamping capacity. Source – Link.

The government in India has allowed markets to open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Shops on the left side of the road open one day and shops on the right side open the next day. This was done so that we have fewer crowds in the market but I see more and more people there every day. People have started visiting each other again. It’s as if they have thrown the caution to the wind. If only this virus has a mortality rate of 20-30% I do not think governments around the world would’ve let this happen.

I understand that we cannot stay indoors all the time but we can still go out only when it’s necessary and wear a mask whenever we go out. It’s very important to test the population to suppress this virus. In India, Kerala has done it exceptionally well and even took care of migrant workers as their own. Even MIT has written praises on the efforts in Kerala. Our country has to test our population else we are going to lose above million people.

If this article was helpful to you then please share it on social media.
Spread and raise awareness among your friends and family.
We all can beat this together. Stay strong. This too shall pass but with a cost.

Love and peace,

Vikram Jeet Singh Parmar

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