Wear mask when stepping out – GMOA

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By Dilanthi Jayamanne 

While not challenging a technical decision taken by a specialist committee at the Health Ministry, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) said, it was more advisable to wear a mask when leaving home in view of the prevailing situation in the country.

GMOA Secretary, Dr. Senal Fernando, fielding questions said, the mask largely helped prevent respiratory tract infections. “With the present drug shortage in hospitals and other health institutions and protests and demonstrations taking place it is highly recommended that people don masks when stepping out,” he said. 

He said, the decision had been taken according to recommendations of the Expert Committee, which had considered the situation in several other countries. The new Health Minister, Prof. Channa Jayasumana took on the duties of the Director General of Health Services, who is the competent authority to announce the decision that had been taken. 

Professor and Head, Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine, Neelika Malavige tweeted that there was “no risk at all to be unmasked if walking alone on a street. However, despite the very low number of cases and hospitalisations due to Covid in 

Sri Lanka right now, it would be advisable to wear masks in large outdoor gatherings,” she recommended. 

Prof. Malavige said many countries had relaxed their Covid restrictions and that masks were not worn in many countries, even indoors despite surging infections and increase in hospitalisations, she added. 

President and General Secretary of the Association of Medical Specialists (AMS), Drs. Lakkumar Fernando and R. Gnanasekeram urged the decision on masks to be rescinded, especially at outdoor gatherings. “People should be advised to take all measures to prevent contracting the Covid -19 infection,” the duo said.  

The AMS said it had been informed by the newly appointed Minister that it is no longer necessary to wear masks outdoors. After his announcement, the DGHS had also issued a circular endorsing the same.  

“We feel that this is a retrograde step. While walking alone without a mask may be justified, there is a substantial risk of contracting Covid in mass outdoor gatherings too.”      

Meanwhile, DGHS, Dr. Asela Gunawardena, issuing a directive as a Media release, added that checking of body temperature when entering premises and obtaining details of customers or visitors entering the premises as a measure of preventing Covid-19 was also not necessary. The directives came into effect on Monday (18).