MUSCAT: Despite making it mandatory and punishable under law, some people are stepping out onto the streets, beaches and other public places without wearing face masks while others carry them in their hands or pockets.
“Most people are complying with the law; many others have begun acting as if the coronavirus pandemic is over. It is too early to abandon basic precautions. It is like digging our own graves,” said Dr Basheer Alikaparambil, specialist in Internal Medicine.
According to Royal Oman Police (ROP), the fine for not wearing masks is RO 100, and it includes public places, markets, shops and workplace.
A number of people have already been handed fines by the police in different governorates in the Sultanate.
According to Dr Basheer, masks are not primarily about self-protection. They are about protecting others. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 without symptoms show viral loads as high as those with symptoms.
Individuals who are infected with the virus can feel fine but still transmit the virus for days before they develop any symptoms.
“Wearing an appropriate mask, along with physical distancing and proper hygiene, is a crucial means of reducing transmission of the virus. The virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact. Droplets play a very important role in the spread of the microbe,” said Dr Basheer.
Wearing masks can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others and their lives, he said.
According to World Health Organisation, face masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives. But the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19.
Last week, the global body issued guidance saying children over the age of 12 should wear masks, in line with recommended practice for adults in their country or area.
It admits little is known about how children transmit the virus but cites evidence that teenagers can infect others in the same way as adults.
For children aged between six and 11, the WHO advises taking into account how widespread the transmission of the virus is and whether the child is interacting with high-risk individuals such as the elderly.
It also stresses the need for adult supervision to help children use, put on and take off masks safely.
For teachers, the WHO says: “In areas where there is widespread transmission, all adults under the age of 60 and who are in general good health should wear fabric masks when they cannot guarantee at least a one-metre distance from others.
“This is particularly important for adults working with children who may have close contact with children and one another.”
Adults aged 60 or over, or those with underlying health conditions, should wear medical masks, it says.
The WHO guidance does not specify whether a child over the age of 12 should wear a mask in school, but it may yet become a feature of the classroom as the new academic year begins.