Masks: Awareness: near-total, compliance: half-way

Covid-19: 90% aware but only 44% of India is wearing a face mask, shows a nationwide survey

GN Bureau | September 23, 2020


#Covid-19   #Novel Coronavirus   #healthcare   #mask   #face mask   #awareness   #prevention   #ApnaMask  
(Image courtesy: apnamask.org)
(Image courtesy: apnamask.org)

Wearing a face mask is the first line of defence against the novel coronavirus, along with maintaining social distance and frequently washing hands with soap. More than six months after the outbreak of Covid-19, nearly 90 percent of people in India have become aware of the necessity of wearing a face mask, but only 44 percent actually do, shows a nationwide survey conducted by ApnaMask.

The survey spread over 18 cities by ApnaMask, an initiative by EkDesh, aimed to understand the overall compliance around wearing of masks. Only 44% Indians are wearing a mask while awareness levels around masks are at 90% high, the organization said in a release on Wednesday. This is rather a dismaying fact, especially when the number of infection per day has been above 75,000 for this month, making India the most affected country on day-to-day basis. As the country has been opening up with Unlock, it is imperative that the mask discipline is ingrained across the board.
 
The survey explores various aspects of mask wearing among sections of society and has been structured to understand the following:
 
* Awareness on safe practices for safeguarding oneself from being infected by the coronavirus

* Compliance amongst different segments of the population towards wearing masks.

“While India has steadily moved towards unlock, battling the pandemic needs a unified effort by the authorities at one level and citizens at another level to help control the spread. There is global evidence that face masks help in the slowdown of Covid-19 spread. In India, our survey findings have revealed that while there is a high level of awareness around wearing a mask, the compliance is very low or flawed,” Shekhar Kirani, founding member of ACT Grant and Partner Accel Ventures, was quoted as saying in the release.  

“Through our Corona Soldier movement, we want every citizen in the country to step up and pledge support towards 100% mask compliance. We firmly believe that diligent efforts towards masking a billion Indians will help save lives.”

The survey was conducted in partnership with Crownit, a research firm, and reveals the following pointers:
 
Awareness of preventive measures and practice
Findings show that 90% of respondents who participated in the survey are aware of all the guidelines issued by the Government of India as well as other organizations to protect from Covid-19 infection. However, when it came to overall practice, compliance was low especially among the lower social strata. Interestingly, only around 44% are completely compliant in terms of wearing it correctly and in all relevant situations.
 
Breathing issues and inconvenience are key factors behind non-compliance
When it came to non-compliance towards covering face, breathing problems emerged (50%) as key reason, followed by discomfort and inconvenience at 44%. This was followed by the assumption that as long as social distancing was maintained, a mask was not required as per 45% of respondents.
 
Further, young people within age group 26-35 years believe that social distancing suffices as a preventive measure and were indifferent to being infected and are not convinced about the ability of a face mask or cover to control spread of virus.
 
Compliance towards wearing a mask was seen to be highest among those in the age group of 36-55 years. Only 28% of respondents ensured to be masked-up while taking delivery of groceries or home deliveries.   
 
Are Indians using a mask properly?
When it comes to proper usage of masks, the survey revealed interesting findings:
•    Only 50% respondents wear a mask during the entire duration while out of home
•    Around 30% put on the mask only when someone is in close vicinity
•    Over 73% respondents ensure their masks cover mouth and nose when stepping out
•    Women are more compliant and conscious to using masks properly than men
•    Users belief handkerchief and face shield offered highest protection with regards to coverage of ears, mouth and nose.

Preference towards masks
Among the respondents regularly using masks, a clear preference towards N95 masks, cloth masks and surgical masks has emerged in the findings. The N95 masks was most popular, especially among the higher income group. Only around 21% respondents go as far as using a face shield in addition to a mask.
 
Over 70% of respondents use a mask only while stepping out of home to visit crowded marketplaces or at work. Usage of a dupatta, scarf or chuniri was lowest among recipients.

To encourage people to wear masks, ApnaMask launched a pan India campaign ‘I am a Corona Solider’ aimed at recruiting ‘Corona Soldiers’ who pledge to wear a mask every time they step out of their homes and also encourage others to do the same. The campaign builds on patriotism, layered it with inconvenience that the soldiers face at the battle front yet continue to fight for the country, the release said.

Army veterans Lt Col MK Sinha (Retd) and Major Gaurav Arya (Retd) gave out a battle cry to every citizen of the country to become a Corona Soldier and protect the country from coronavirus. Till date they have recruited over 200,000 ‘Corona Soldiers’ including celebrities like Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom, Yogeshwar Dutt, Vikas Khanna, Bipasha Basu, Mouni Roy and Diana Penty.
 
ApnaMask is an initiative by EkDesh, a not-for profit platform supported by ACT Grants to spread awareness among Indians on the importance of wearing masks, social distancing and hygiene. It is a part of ACT Grants - an initiative involving large number of start-ups coming together to create a fund to battle Covid-19. People such as Rajan Anandan, Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Alok Mittal have come on the Apna Mask platform to encourage people to wear masks. In its early days, ApnaMask helped build awareness and educate 1.3 billion people to adopt the trend of making masks at home and wearing them, every time they step outside.

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