Bahar Rehan ( 4th Year MBBS Student, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan. )
Maheera Farooqi ( 4th Year MBBS Student, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan. )
Nazuk Eraj Qureshi ( 4th Year MBBS Student, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan. )
Madam, with 426,412 confirmed cases to date,1 Pakistan now stands with most developing countries in the war against controlling the second wave of Covid-19. According to the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), Pakistan's case positivity rate has climbed to 9.71% for the first time in five months.2 This alarming situation calls for a nationwide lockdown. However, considering the economy of Pakistan, this approach is not sustainable in the long run. Considering the high mortality rate of the virus and the uncertainty of a readily available vaccine, we believe that the only solution is the immediate imposing of mass masking. This approach has previously been proved to contribute to the control of Covid-19.3
To inspect public compliance towards mask-wearing, we conducted an observational study on pedestrians in Karachi, Pakistan. Three socioeconomically diverse areas were studied from 20th till 27th November 2020. Mask wearing and the area observed were found significantly associated (p-value: 0.000 - Table-1).
The hoarding practice has led to a consequent spike in masks' prices, making them unaffordable for the people belonging to low socioeconomic areas. The increasing demand for surgical masks and respirators has also led to a global shortage of supply and raw materials.4 Additionally, a lack of awareness regarding Covid-19 in low socioeconomic areas may also be a reason behind people not wearing a mask. Punjab reported that less than half (48.90%) of the general public had information that it is a pandemic disease.5
Therefore, we urge the government to work with different NGOs and distribute free masks to those who cannot afford them. There is also a dire need for effective methods for public awareness regarding the role of facemasks in mitigating the virus's transmission. This can be achieved through advertisements on social media and mass media. The advertisements should be conveyed in the national languages to spread valuable information to the masses. Moreover, policymakers need to take immediate and strict action against people with non-serious attitudes towards mask-wearing. Although the government has made it mandatory to wear face masks in public places along with the imposition of a fine for the violation, the real challenge of convincing the public to follow these guidelines otherwise remains.
Acknowledgement: None to declare
Disclaimer: None to declare
Conflict of Interest: None to declare
Funding Disclosure: None to declare
1. Government of Pakistan. COVID-19 Health Advisory Platform by Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination. [Online] [Cited 2020 December 09]. Available from: URL: http://covid.gov.pk/stats/pakistan.
2. The News International. Alarming situation: Pakistan's coronavirus positivity rate reaches 9.71%. [Online] [Cited 2020 December 07]. Available from: URL: https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/755073-with-pakistans-coronavirus-positivity-rate-nears-10.
3. Cheng VC, Wong SC, Chuang VW, So SY, Chen JH, Sridhar S, et al. The role of community-wide wearing of face mask for control of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic due to SARS-CoV-2. J Infect. 2020; 81:107-14.
4. Chua MH, Cheng W, Goh SS, Kong J, Li B, Lim JYC, et al. Face Masks in the New COVID-19 Normal: Materials, Testing, and Perspectives. Research (Wash DC) 2020; 2020:7286735.
5. Haq SU, Shahbaz P, Boz I. Knowledge, behavior and precautionary measures related to COVID-19 pandemic among the general public of Punjab province, Pakistan. J Infect Dis. 2020; 14:823-35.