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A doctor with a protective mask attends a patient. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: In recent days, we’ve been hearing more and more about how COVID-19 particles are transmitted. It isn’t just close contact with an infected person that is risky; in fact, seemingly simple actions like speaking loudly, sneezing and singing in closed environments can drive COVID-19 particles or even aerosolise them, allowing them to remain suspended in the air.

What’s reassuring is that face masks offer a good level of protection in indoor environments, which is why everyone should be diligent about wearing a mask when stepping out of the house. It seems inconvenient, but in the larger scheme of things, it can protect so many vulnerable people.

A few days ago, I came across an individual shouting loudly at a clinic I was visiting. I might not have given it another moment of thought, but when I found the source of the noise, I saw that the man, standing mere metres away from me at the reception desk, was not even wearing a mask correctly. The piece of PPE was rolled down to his chin, while he was literally yelling.

At first, I wondered how he could get away with being so inconsiderate in a clinic. Why wasn’t anybody chastising him? I simply couldn’t understand, and I expressed my annoyance to my husband. Certainly, at the level at which he was speaking, he would be aerosolising more than a few COVID-19 particles if he was himself infected.

Surprise revelation

So imagine my surprise when I happened to look up at a display board a few minutes later, only to find a headshot of the boisterous gentleman, next to his name and the title, ‘ENT consultant’. I nearly balked at the discovery.

Here was a health care professional, who would know all too well the risks of respiratory diseases, ignoring the one simple act that can protect us in the face of a pandemic. I soon got called in to see my own physician, but I couldn’t forget the other doctor’s callousness.

I don’t know what set him off in the first place, but the least he could do was keep his mask on properly. Even if he had received COVID-19 results that very day showing that he is uninfected, we do require our doctors and health care professionals to be role models. After all, it is they who know all too well the need to put on PPE correctly, and the risks that arise when guidelines are ignored.

Instead of being the one disregarding the masking regulation, I would expect health care professionals like him to be setting an example for the rest of us during this pandemic.