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67% Indians would support if govt gives free N95 masks to all: Survey on Covid fight

LocalCircles survey also revealed that 2 in every 3 Indians who don masks wear cloth ones instead of N95s, which are considered more effective against Omicron variant.

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New Delhi: Two of every three Indians would support a government-led mission to provide everyone in the country with N95 masks or an equivalent to fight the spread of Covid-19, a new survey revealed Friday

Conducted by community platform LocalCircles, the survey also found that among Indians who wear protective masks, two out of three, or approximately 67 per cent, still only wear cloth masks as opposed to N95s. 

The survey was conducted in light of United States President Joe Biden’s recent announcement of a free masks programme, as part of which 400 million N95 masks are to be made available for Americans to pick up from pharmacies and healthcare facilities nationwide. 

LocalCircles drew parallels between Biden’s announcement and current pandemic-related events in India with respect to tightening of Covid restrictions, punishment for non-compliance, and the questions over the efficacy of two doses of Covishield against the Omicron variant of the virus.

“With limited to no protection against the variant and a booster programme just available to the most vulnerable, wearing a mask remains the only absolute defence against contracting the infection,” the company said in a press statement. 

Sharing a fact sheet comparing the abilities of cloth masks, surgical masks and N95 masks in protecting an individual from the Omicron variant, LocalCircles reiterated the importance of N95s above all other types of masks. 

Also Read: Buying an N95 mask to guard against Omicron? Here’s how to know if it’s the real thing

The cost barrier

Conducted on the LocalCircles’ platform, the survey received a total 18,500 responses from Indians living across 307 districts. Sixty-five per cent of these respondents were male; 44 per cent were from tier-1 cities.

According to the findings, one-in-three Indians do not carry masks while leaving their homes, and two-in-three Indians only wear cloth masks. 

However, the cost barrier for many Indians is difficult to overlook, with surgical and cloth masks costing less than Rs 10 each on average, while the price of an N95 mask can be as much as Rs 200, LocalCircles said.

“If such masks were made available for free along with some awareness literature, there is a high possibility that many will start using them at least during times of a Covid wave. This could have a significant positive impact in minimising the spread,” it added, emphasising the need for a state-led effort in ensuring greater mask compliance.  

Of 9,902 survey responses to a question on a government of India-led mission to deliver free N95 masks to every household, 67 per cent expressed support, 28 per cent expressed opposition, and 5 per cent were unsure. 

The survey also contained a follow-up question about the mission’s implementation, and the extent to which such a mission should be government-funded. 

Out of 8,740 responses to this question, 73 per cent said the government must fund it as much as possible and raise the remaining money through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from the private sector while not increasing taxes. 

Meanwhile, 19 per cent said the government “should enable corporates to donate CSR funds” for the mission, while 4 per cent answered that the government should fund it completely and “raise taxes via a special cess”. 

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: Booster dose of Covishield can increase antibody levels against Omicron, Oxford study says


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