India is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with daily cases rising from 200 to over 1100 in just a few weeks, despite limited testing. Over 10 districts now have a test positivity rate (TPR) of over 10%, and several districts fall within the 5-10% TPR category. In addition, cases of influenza A subtype H3N2 and adenovirus are on the rise in various parts of the country, affecting vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and pregnant women. Many patients are experiencing severe chest infections and difficulty breathing. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has reported that about half of all patients admitted with severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and those visiting clinics have been diagnosed with influenza A H3N2.

Should we mask up again?

Given these concerning trends, citizens are asking whether it is time to reinstate mask-wearing. While health experts are urging the public to follow COVID-appropriate behavior, a majority of people in both urban and rural areas have forgotten about wearing masks. 

To gauge the current situation, LocalCircles conducted a national survey of over 9,000 citizens across 302 districts in India. The results showed that only 6% of respondents believed that everyone is effectively complying with mask-wearing norms in public places and gatherings. Forty-eight percent said that no one was complying, while 39% felt that only a few were compliant.

Given the low compliance rate, re-establishing a mask mandate will require strong leadership from various sectors, including government, business, healthcare, education, and community organizations. It will require setting an example by following the mandate and encouraging others to do so. The challenge lies in ensuring that everyone understands the importance of mask-wearing to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.

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