An infectious diseases expert has raised serious questions about the Indian government’s new COVID-19 guidelines, which the principal scientific advisor’s office released on May 20. Lalita Ramakrishnan, is a professor of immunology and infectious diseases. She raised questions about three particular aspects of the guidelines: that aerosols can carry the virus up to 10 metres, second, that door handles, light switches, tables and chairs need to be cleaned often, and the need for double-masking.
In a 20-minute interview, Ramakrishnan said that while it’s technically and theoretically possible for aerosols to transport viral particles to up to 10 metres, it’s also very unlikely: “We should not be worrying about this,” she said.
The guidelines don’t explain why they include the 10-metres point or how people can respond to this possibility.
Ramakrishnan also called transmission via surface “a very unlikely mode” and that such points should make up the “thrust of the guidance”. She also questioned the need to clean surfaces with bleach when, according to her, soap and water should be sufficient, if necessary.
However, Ramakrishnan was most dismissive of the new guidelines’ recommendation that people should wear double masks. She said this was a case of making “the perfect the enemy of the good” and that “may be double masks will help a little, but they are not practical. … Double masks are hot, uncomfortable and difficult to breathe through”.
Ramakrishnan also told The Wire that N95 masks are not necessary and should be left for medical attendants, doctors and nurses in hospitals, and that surgical masks or homemade masks are sufficient for others.