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Masks, limited lockdowns to return if Covid cases shoot up this winter


New Delhi, Sep 17
More than three years after the pandemic, as the northern hemisphere moves towards winter and new variants of Covid continue to rise, talks about the return of masks, maintaining personal hygiene and controlled lockdowns are gaining momentum.

The rising Covid cases have already prompted some schools, hospitals and businesses in the US to encourage, or even require, people to start masking up again.

CDC Director Mandy Cohen has cautioned that Covid remains risky for people who are unvaccinated.

The risk is especially high for unvaccinated individuals who haven't been infected before and those who are older or have underlying health conditions.

Dr Rajkumar, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, Delhi, said that even as the emerging new variants of the Covid warrant vigilance, undue worry can be mitigated through informed measures.

“To protect against new variants, maintaining established precautions remains pivotal: getting vaccinated, practicing good hand hygiene, wearing masks in crowded settings, and adhering to local health guidelines,” Rajkumar told IANS.

Timely vaccination, particularly with updated booster shots, bolsters our defenses as well as measures should be taken individually to boost immunity.

“As the situation evolves, public health surveillance, genomic sequencing, and proactive measures will help us navigate the landscape, assuring that our collective efforts continue to mitigate the impact of the present or upcoming variants,” he added.

Public health experts from several prominent universities have suggested that both patients and healthcare professionals should draw upon lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic and continue to mask up in the health care setting.

This is important because infection from SARS-CoV-2 is still a threat, especially to the most vulnerable patients, and masks are a proven method for preventing transmission, according to a commentary published in the journal of Annals of Internal Medicine.

Although rates of severe Covid have decreased because of increasing community immunity and access to medical countermeasures, severe outcomes attributable to Covid-19 are still occurring.

Many health care workers and people in the general community no longer take the same precautions they did at the height of the pandemic and have returned to normal activities despite ongoing circulation of SARS-CoV-2 and other endemic respiratory viruses.

In the US, which is facing a late-summer Covid surge, Republicans are raising fears that government-issued lockdowns and mask mandates are coming next.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters this week that people are “lurching toward” Covid-19 restrictions and “there needs to be a pushback".

“The radical Democrats are trying hard to restart Covid hysteria. I wonder why. Is there an election coming up by any chance?” former US President Donald Trump had asked his supporters in South Dakota during a recent campaign rally.

The US government has, however, said a federal mask mandate is not on the cards at the moment.

“To be clear, the rumours of a federal mask mandate are not true,” said Jeff Nesbit, assistant secretary for public affairs for Health and Human Services.

Masks may make a comeback, but most likely will only be mandatory at healthcare settings such as clinics and hospitals to begin with, according to experts.