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With scientists and doctors urging the public to upgrade their face coverings to those that can block the tiny pathogens that cause infection, and with footfall at offline stores at an all-time low due to the pandemic, the only option for mask brands like ours (Airific by Nirvana Being) is to sell our masks online. In normal circumstances, selling masks for companies that have all the certifications necessary to prove their efficacy is usually not a problem- except that Facebook, Google and Amazon have now started blocking all mask related ads, citing a policy aimed at ensuring medical-grade masks are reserved for health care workers.
The tech giants listed above see our masks as part of PPE, whereas they can also belong with the non-medical category for public use. Using words such as ‘N95’, ‘filtration’, ‘COVID-19’, ‘virus’ along with making any efficiency related claims on websites is a strict no-no. As soon as Google, Facebook and Amazon detect that a brand like ours is selling masks, they instantly block the ad account and take extremely long to respond to appeal. Sometimes this process is futile as even after reviews are submitted the ban remains. In our opinion, this ban makes it extremely difficult for the audience to buy genuine masks that offer real protection over cloth or three-ply masks, and makes it almost impossible for mask brands like Nirvana Being that existed pre-COVID to continue their e-commerce activities. These restrictions could also hinder India’s ability to limit new infections in the months before vaccinations become more widely available.
We are irked by this situation as we are not allowed to talk about our features directly on our website! This makes it difficult for the clean air solutions industry to catch a break as we are completely shut out from the marketplace. Facebook says that it will maintain a temporary ban on selling medical masks, such as surgical or N95 masks, in order to prevent people from exploiting the pandemic for financial gain. But what is bothersome for us is when we see ads for nonmedical-grade masks that offer close to zero protection! And this is particularly upsetting because peoples’ lives are at stake.
A mask is something that directly impacts health and safety from COVID-19. Therefore, the need of the hour is a credible product that checks all the boxes, meets and exceeds standards of the WHO, CDC and most importantly, the highest standards for non-medical masks, established by the European Union (CWA 17553:2020).
Take the example of branded medicines versus fake medicines. When you go to a doctor’s clinic and get a prescription, you will always see names of branded medicines with proven efficacy, which instils trust and confidence in you. Now imagine if your doctor prescribed you a fake/ non branded inexpensive medicine. Just a mere glance at the medicine will not help you figure out if the medicine is fake or not. To add to this, now imagine if you are unable to find any information on the medicine in terms of reputation, efficacy or reports? Would you still have the same kind of confidence and trust while purchasing the medicine?
A mask offers as much protection as a medicine from respiratory illnesses. The bans by Facebook and Google are surely justified in protecting their audiences from fake claims- but if a particular mask has all the right features and certifications to protect people from the Coronavirus, shouldn’t this information be widely available?
To conclude, the restrictions by Google are essentially pushing more and more people towards fashionable cloth masks without any efficacy which is a major problem if we are looking to flatten the curve. In case of India it is shocking that no government body has come out with any standard for masks. In most countries, governments or medical authorities like CDC in the USA have set guidance on masks all along. However, India has had no guidance on masks since the beginning of COVID-19.