Two people from different families should be wearing masks inside vehicles, not from the same family!

COVID-19 Misleading

Amid rising cases of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, the Technical committee comprising of health officials made a number of decisions on how to proceed with revised public safety guidelines.

In this context, there was a great buzz about the official information issued by Health Promotions Bureau under the Ministry of Health. We noticed that part of a statement made by the director of Health Promotion Bureau to a newspaper had been shared in a misleading manner.

Social Media Posts:

“The Morning” published an article quoting an interview with the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB) Director of Health Education and Promotion Dr. P.D. Koggalage, about the mandatory requirements of wearing masks, when multiple people are travelling inside the vehicle.

The article goes on to note that Dr. Koggalage mentioned that “The health advisory is that only two persons can travel in a vehicle at the same time. Even if these two persons are from the same household, it is essential that they wear masks. An air-conditioned vehicle is a compact space and there is a high possibility of the virus transmitting inside such a space.

The article can be seen below

Link | Archived

The article goes on to mention that “Scientifically, it is not essential that one wears a mask when inside a vehicle alone. But if you stop, for instance, to speak to the Police, one should wear the mask before such contact is made.”

Based on the fact that even two people from the same household should be wearing masks, while travelling inside vehicle, a number of social media users had requested whether such a statement was made by the HPB Director.

Fact Check 

We contacted Dr. Ashan Pathirage from the Health Promotion Bureau about the incident and he clarified that the statement made by the HPB director had been miscommunicated and the correct fact is that if two people from different households are travelling in a car they would need to be wearing masks and not people from the same family residing in the same house.

We noticed a Tweet published by HPB official handle clarifying the misunderstanding as seen below.

“We wish to inform that, the director @HPBSriLanka has been misquoted saying, ‘it is mandatory for people of the same household to wear masks inside a vehicle’. The news item will be corrected by the respective media institute”

Tweet | Archived

Last year also there were inquiries about the face mask rule and how it would be applied while travelling and here is an article which mentioned it would be useless for wearing masks inside the vehicle for families from the same household if they are not wearing masks inside homes.

Police imposed strict regulations for those who violated health guidelines past few days and videos of people who were not wearing taking into police arrest were shared widely as seen here

Travel restrictions between the nine provinces came into effect from midnight yesterday to control the spread of COVID-19. These inter-provincial travel restrictions will be effective until May 31 reported the Daily News.

COVID RELATED GUIDELINES AND CIRCULARS

Here is a live discussion conducted today (12th May) about the current COVID19 situation in the country and health guidelines to be followed in coming days.

However, in India Delhi high court ruled that a private car on the roads comes under the definition of a public place hence it is compulsory for people to wear a mask in a private vehicle even if they are driving alone. The Delhi High Court while hearing a petition from a Delhi based lawyer who was penalized for not wearing a mask inside his car while travelling alone passed the following judgement:

To read the full judgement-pms07042021cw85882020131224-391606.pdf (livelaw.in)

The Delhi HC also observes that a person traveling in a car alone or with multiple other persons who could be their family or friends are still at risk of getting exposed to the virus. Special care needs to be taken at home also if there are elderly people, children or people suffering from comorbidities.

Update : Police spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana also stressed the point that clarifying that while a single person is travelling in a vehicle and if the family members are who living in the same house are travelling inside a vehicle it is not required to wear face masks at the moment. However, while relatives from different family members are travelling it is required to be wearing facemask. His interview is given below. (1 min 30 sec onwards)

Conclusion 

Therefore it’s clear that the statement made by the HPB director had been misquoted saying, it is mandatory for people of the same household to wear masks inside a vehicle. 

Health Promotion Bureau clarifies that the correction should be that when two people from different households are travelling inside a car they would need to be wearing masks.

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Title:Two people from different families should be wearing masks inside vehicles, not from the same family!

Fact Check By: Sathyajith Subasinghe 

Result: Misleading

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