Face Masks and hand gloves have proven to be effective warriors in the fight against COVID-19, protecting us from the possible threat of infection.
Taking a stringent step, the Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday made facemasks compulsory.
Announcing about the state government's decision, Sarma said that if someone is found outside without a facemask, then he/she will have to pay a fine of Rs 500.
Sarma said that step has been initiated with the aim to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the state, which has been rising rapidly in the state.
"It is not necessary to use a readymade mask, people can cover their mouth and face with gamosa or a handkerchief also," Sarma said.
"Moreover, every shop owner has to maintain social distancing among customers. Otherwise, apart from 28 days quarantine, further actions will be taken against the owner," Sarma further added.
However, the question that I have been forced to ask myself is that- are face masks really safe?
Are we sure that the face masks that we are using aren't the carriers of coronavirus?
And I have strong reasons to ask this question.
On Thursday (May 7, 2020) I went to a nearby pharmacy to buy some medicines and as I waited for my turn, I saw a vendor selling face masks to the pharmacy.
The vendor took out several packets of face masks and showed them to the pharmacy owner.
The owner opened each packet, took out a few masks from the packets and scrutinized them to see if they were perfect and damage-free!
Both were using their bare hands while the masks were shared between them.
The vendor sold around 3-4 packets of face masks in this pharmacy and moved ahead with the remaining stocks to sell it in some other pharmacy.
And when I told them it was the improper way of selling masks, the vendor and the pharmacist gave me a cold stare!
As the vendor left, came another customer and he asked for a face mask.
He was given one, which he scrutinized by examining every corner and also wore it to and then calmly said he will like to check another one.
He did the same with the second mask and left without buying any of them.
The masks were "packed" again and kept in the pharmacy's closet.
Can we be sure of the fact that face masks were not contaminated?
This was the story of one single pharmacy and I am sure the process is repeated in every single pharmacy out there, and this makes face masks the prime carrier of coronavirus.
An asymptomatic person checking or selling face masks this way is putting everyone at the risk of infection.
Can this be attributed as one of the reasons for the spike of COVID-19 cases, especially in Assam?
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.