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With caseload low, experts split on mask fine removal

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The Delhi Disaster Management Authority’s move (DDMA) to do away with fines for not wearing masks in public places in the national capital, citing a significant dip in the number of Covid-19 cases, has health experts divided on whether this was the right time to make masks optional.

Also Read | No fines for not wearing masks: State govt order

While some said the decision was justified, arguing that the city’s population has likely acquired immunity against Covid-19 through natural infection and high vaccination coverage (over 90% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated), others believed it was still “too soon” for the city to lower its guard.

Epidemiologist and consultant with the New Delhi Municipal Council, Dr PK Sharma said people should continue wearing masks in crowded places, considering that the Covid-19 virus is mutating at a fast rate. He stressed that the immuno-compromised and senior citizens should mandatorily wear masks.

“While scientifically, if a city has attained herd immunity of over 70%, the mask mandate can be relaxed, but look at the crowds at markets and on the Metro; I would suggest that people continue wearing masks and if you have any ailment such as diabetes, blood pressure or anxiety, then you must definitely wear a mask in public places,” said Dr Sharma.

Also Read | Digital detox: Doors open for physical-only classes in Delhi

Until Friday, people who do not wear masks in public places were fined 500.

Dr Sumit Ray, head of department (critical care), Holy Family Hospital, said that since hospitalisations and new infections are currently low, the national capital has reached a stage where the government can stop penalising people for not wearing masks.

It must, however, continue creating awareness on the benefits of wearing a mask.

“The hospital admissions are extremely low now and the severity of infection is also mild; I think this is the right time to do away with fines for not wearing masks,” said Dr Ray.

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