MUMBAI: Morning walkers will be targeted as a part of the civic corporation’s drive to penalize citizens who fail to wear a mask despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Masks have been equated, in efficacy, with vaccines in their ability to prevent Covid-19, but medical experts say masks are not advisable while running distances of 5km or more.
The BMC took the decision to fine runners on Tuesday by roping in the police, traffic police, corporators and ward officials in its stepped-up its Covid drive. A civic official said stated it’s understandable if a person jogs without a mask but many fail to mask up even after their workout. “There are some people who use jogging as an excuse to not wear a mask,’’ said another official.
Masks have emerged as a contentious issue as Covid-19 cases shot up after the Ganpati festival ended. Many doctors said the spread has increased because Mumbaikars have been failing to use a mask or maintain social distance. BMC commissioner I S Chahal issued the new directive during a virtual meeting on Tuesday with senior BMC officials and police officials.
The correlation between running and wearing a mask is tough. A senior doctor said it’s not advisable to wear a mask while running in the October heat in Mumbai.
Senior medical consultant Dr Pratit Samdhani said the answer depends on how many kilometres one is running and the type of mask being used. Also, Dr Samdhani said that runners tend to be younger and the main drivers of the infection. “It makes sense to ask runners to use a mask, but it would be hazardous to run 5km with a mask, especially if one is not accustomed to it,’’ he said. Also, wearing a surgical mask is better than a N95 mask. “Climbing a flight of stairs while wearing an N95 mask can leave one breathless,’’ added Dr Samdhani.
An official said people fail to use a mask even while at the markets or crowded places. “The civic staff should be told to focus on them instead of joggers. Joggers should follow social distancing rule and wear the mask when not jogging,” he added.
The BMC, as a part of its ‘No mask, no entry’ campaign, distributed 20 lakh stickers across the city. Around 60 lakh pamphlets of ‘My Family, My Responsibility’ theme asking people to maintain hygiene was also distributed. The BMC has so far penalized 40,000 people for not wearing mask and collected over Rs 1 crore in penalty from them.
Using a mask can make it difficult for the runner to catch his/her breath. Runners can get fatigued faster while wearing a mask and may have to reduce his/her speed. However, doctors said that one can adapt to masking by improving their fitness levels.
In a blog on world renowned Cleveland Clinic’s site, sports medicine specialist Caitlin Lewis wrote, “A face mask is going to decrease your airflow, making it a little harder to breathe.” It won’t decrease your oxygen or retain carbon dioxide. “But it will probably impact your performance or pace,” she wrote.
Chief of infectious diseases Dr Faheem Younus from University of Maryland who has a fan following for Covid advice is concerned said, tweeted that one doesn’t need to wear a mask while “running, exercising. biking (sweat may increase growth of microorganisms), but keep 6ft distance’.

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