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US Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris, has inspired a research team led by Professor Gurch Randhawa from University of Bedfordshire and Dr Rajinder Pal Singh to promote an innovative beard covering technique, called ‘Singh Thattha’, which enables bearded individuals to wear a respirator mask without the need for shaving.

A problem faced by many BAME professionals in the healthcare industry, this technique will also enable hospital staff the ability to wear mandatory respirator masks over a beard when caring for Covid-19 patients – something which Kamala Harris previously raised concerns about.

The findings of this world-leading study have been published in the Journal of Hospital Infection today (11th November 2020) and follow numerous calls by Public Health England to protect BAME communities and workforce members.

Gurch Randhawa, Professor of Diversity in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire commented: “Because shaving was a mandatory pre-requisite for wearing respirator masks, many members of the faith-observant bearded community, such as Sikh, Jewish and Muslim, have been affected and have had to face the dilemma of redeployment from frontline healthcare jobs involving exposure to Covid-19. Redeployment to other areas incurs a loss of skillset and need for re-training, and junior doctors have had their training impacted.

“In 2005, a similar situation had arisen, when a faith-observant bearded Sikh gentleman was denied the position of a corrections officer in California as the job required staff to occasionally wear a respirator mask. NBC News reported that the current Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris, was the Attorney-General during that time, and was unable to support the appointment as the beard would pose a problem for the policy mandated gas-mask fitting.

“In both of these scenarios, the common theme was that the beard was considered to be an impediment to the wearing of a respirator mask. The other common principle was the concern for the health and safety of the employee. There was no alternative choice – or maybe, it was unexplored.

Stimulated by this predicament,  in the midst of the first Covid-19 peak in the UK, a transplant surgeon from Manchester, Dr Rajinder Pal Singh, came up with a novel idea of using an under-mask beard cover called ‘Thattha’ to allow him to wear an FFP3 respirator mask which ended up passing the NHS qualitative Fit Test. This pioneering technique was aptly named the ‘Singh Thattha’ Technique.

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