Face masks have become one of the constant shields to beat the COVID-19 pandemic and Chennai, which is one of the worst affected Indian cities by the viral infection, has been strengthening its shield to fight the virus as the recent study has revealed that the face mask compliance has improved in the city. The significant improvement has come when the city has been battling the horrendous second wave of the pandemic and amid predictions of the third wave.
The study was conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)- National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE) along with the Greater Chennai Corporation. The study was supervised and done by ICMR's Dr Prabhdeep Kaur and P Ganeshkumar. The study had focused both indoors and outdoors of the slum and non-slum areas of the city to understand the behaviour of wearing masks among the people. From meeting individuals to rounding up the commercial places, the researchers involved in the study had analyzed how the city has improved in mask compliance.
According to the study, it was found that mask compliance in Chennai's slum areas had improved from 21% in March 2021 to 41% presently. In non-slum areas of the city, mask compliance has improved from 27% in March this year to 47% presently. Both the findings were satisfactory with a sign that the compliance has to improve further. The recent study was ICMR-NIE's fourth study of mask compliance in Chennai.
The first round of the study was conducted in October 2020 while the second and third rounds of the study were done in December 2020 and March 2021 respectively. For the fourth round of the study, which was planned after the lockdown was eased, the researchers had picked 64 streets at random in Chennai and studied 3,200 people outdoors and 1,286 people indoors. The researchers had picked 32 streets each from slum and non-slum areas under the Greater Chennai Corporation.
The study was done between July 8 to 10 and at each survey point, researchers had studied 50 individuals outdoors and 20 indoors. The study has concluded that 38% of slum and 25% of non-slum residents didn't wear a mask outdoors. On the front of the indoors, mask compliance was 24% and 33% in slum and non-slum areas respectively. Indoor public places include pharmacies, grocery shops, and provision stores while outdoor places are the streets in residential or commercial areas, open markets, and bus stops.
Speaking to a news agency, Dr Prabhdeep Kaur said that mask compliance in Chennai is still below 50% and it has to be improved further. She had alarmed that the poor indoor mask compliance of 24% in slum areas and 33% in the non-slum areas was a serious concern as these areas are under the high risk of COVID-19 transmission. Amid the city's vaccination crisis, with back-to-back shortages, she noted that the spread of the pandemic can only be arrested if the people wear masks and adhere to the compliance.