Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen wearing a cotton scarf as a face cover during a video meet with chief ministers of different states this morning to discuss the way forward in fight against novel coronavirus or COVID-19, which has infected more than 7,400 people in India, killed at least 239.
Photos from the meeting showed PM Modi wearing a gamcha - a cotton scarf he usually wears - as a face cover for the first time in public since the COVID-19 outbreak was first reported. A few days back, he had urged BJP Varanasi chief Hansraj Vishwakarma to wrap the gamcha - a scarf usually worn by people in villages.
Masks should be for doctors and health workers and ordinary people should use gamcha or home made masks, he had said amid rising number of cases of COVID-19.
Today, those attending the video meet were also seen wearing masks including Maharahstra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. "I am available 24x7. Any chief minister can speak to me and give suggestions (on COVID-19) anytime. We should stand together shoulder-to-shoulder," PM Modi said during the video conference.
Last week, the government had recommended that people cover their faces with homemade, reusable masks when they step out of their homes as part of measures to stem the spread of coronavirus in the country.
"...it is suggested that such people who are not suffering from medical conditions or having breathing difficulties may use the handmade reusable face cover, particularly when they step out of their house. This will help in protecting the community at large," the Union Health Ministry said in an advisory.
These handmade masks, however, are not meant for health workers or those working with or in contact with COVID -19 patients or those who are patients themselves as they are required to wear specified protective gear, the Health Ministry said.
The meeting between PM Modi and chief ministers came after several states have insisted on extending the three-week nationwide "total lockdown", which began on March 25.
Odisha and Punjab have already extended the lockdown till the end of this month.