Dubai: Doctors in the UAE are still recommending the selective wearing of face mask in crowded and enclosed areas as a continuing measure for keeping the community safe from COVID-19. They say mutant variations have slowed down and the pandemic has become less virulent, but the virus has not yet been eliminated.
Since September 28, wearing of masks has become optional in public places but still mandatory in medical facilities, mosques and on public transport. All food service providers, coronavirus patients and those with suspected cases must also wear masks. Masks are also optional in schools and on-board flights, but airlines can enforce the rule if they deem necessary.
Life cycle of a pandemic
Doctors say there are benefits in wearing masks, especially in enclosed and crowded places. Explaining the life cycle of a pandemic, Dr Rajesh Kumar Gupta, specialist Internal Medicine at Burjeel Specialty Hospital, Sharjah said: “The four pillars of containing the virus spread in a typical pandemic — like we have seen in the last two and half years — are masking, social distancing, hand hygiene and vaccination.”
Dr Rajesh Kumar Gupta
“In the UAE, we have been blessed that vaccination has been administered to 100 per cent of the population. But viruses do not get eliminated, from epidemic it becomes endemic, which means it continues to exist around us. The process of mutant variations has slowed down and the virus has become less virulent, but it is still there, although it has been contained and is on its way to becoming like an influenza infection that the population encounters annually,” Dr Gupta added.
Dr Mitchelle Lolly
Dr Mitchelle Lolly, specialist pulmonologist at Prime Hospital, said: “We still have cases. Earlier mutations of the Alpha and Delta variants were severe and we saw a lot of hospitalisations and fatalities. Now, the most prevalent strain is Omicron which spreads easily but is less severe. People complain of cough, headache, mild fever and then the virus travel to the gastrointestinal tract, leaving the lungs free.”
She added: “Many people are either mildly affected or asymptomatic, and in both cases, they are confined to home. Cases are still there but mild. But the best defence even today is wearing a mask to break the chain of infection.”
Who is vulnerable?
Those with special conditions should continue wearing the mask when in crowded places, she added, explaining: “Vulnerable categories that should continue to mask themselves are people above the age 65; those who are immuno-compromised such as people who have undergone organ transplants, under cancer treatment, those with diabetes, heart or kidney disease and those with history of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with lung diseases must be extra careful.”
‘For yourself and loved ones’
Dr Sharifah Ullah
Dr Sharifah Ullah, consultant Family Medicine at HealthBay Dubai, said the main benefit of selective wearing of mask is protecting not only oneself but loved ones as well. “Wear mask especially if you’ve come into contact with somebody who’s at high risk of having Covid or other illnesses. This is to protect yourself and your loved ones,” said Dr Ullah.
Earlier, Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, official spokesperson of the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA), had said: “We are still at the phase of recovery, as the virus is still there. We need to continue to abide by precautionary measures. The next phase requires us all to stick to the shared responsibility and awareness.”