Masks as metaphor

NON-CONFORMIST behaviour is coming into display with public places getting swarmed by people not wearing a face mask despite safety protocols repeatedly being advocated even as Covid-19 is yet to relent. Though it is natural for pandemic fatigue to set in, throwing caution to the winds with a confirmed cure elusive and the vaccine still some time away is best avoided. The wearing of masks was all along advocated and indeed there was trouble ensuring their adequate supply when the pandemic began with the advice finally coming that even cloth masks would suffice for protection, despite different views on their efficacy. Warnings of a surge during the festival season had come because of large gatherings, increasing the risk of infection, with social distancing norms being flouted.

While advances have been made in the search for a vaccine with pharmaceutical companies claiming varied success, it is still some months away before it will be available for the public with the variation in pricing being another cause for concern. Will the government’s flagship health insurance scheme include vaccination along with treatment and testing for the coronavirus will be known only gradually. By advocating the use of masks, like the Punjab CM did by saying, ‘Mask hi vaccine hai’, governments are also being realistic as the long wait for the vaccine is being tested by the concerns of the people who have to earn their living.

Even as the Prime Minister begins his consultations with the Chief Ministers to take stock of the situation, the Supreme Court has asked for a report on the measures taken and the help needed from the Centre as well as the situation in hospitals. It is time to correlate needs with priorities. In the present times, wearing a mask is essentially a precautionary measure and unlike in the US, should not be allowed to become the subject of a debate between the liberals and the conservatives. The challenge before the government will lie in convincing the people to abide by the social distancing norms, not an easy task with livelihoods at stake.

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