Can Reusable Face Masks Protect From COVID-19?
Do the Face Mask Really Work?
The benefits and effectiveness of facemasks during the Coronavirus pandemic are widely debated across the globe. Some scientists and health professionals recommend that all members of the public wear masks, whilst others suggest that only COVID-19 patients, their caretakers and frontline health workers should wear them. Recommendations seem to change on a daily basis and differ widely across governments and public health agencies. Without a universal protocol in place, we are left confused about where to stand on the matter.
In many Asian countries, the humble facemask is already part of people’s daily routine, especially in crowded places and on public transport. Indeed, it is currently a legal requirement to wear the facemask outdoors in places such as Singapore.
Here in the West there still seems to be a stigma attached to the wearing of the facemask so it’s been interesting to see the concerted effort of the governments of the Czech Republic and Slovakia to persuade their citizens to wear a facemask when out in public. The motto “your mask protects me, my mask protects you” and the campaign #mask4all led by prime minister Andrej Babis had a whole country making and wearing mask within days. He even urged Donald Trump in a tweet to adopt the same approach: “Mr President, try tackling the virus the Czech way. Wearing a simple cloth mask decreases the spread of the virus by 80 percent.” Although this figure has been debated, the Czech Republic is seeing a steady decline in new cases of COVID-19. So is there a correlation? Maybe.
Even though Mr Trump may not agree, many health officials and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US are now advising all Americans to wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. They clearly state that these cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators but they recommend wearing a cloth face covering over no protection at all.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also recently called for masks to be worn by anyone using public transport in the capital to help prevent the spread. He said it is important that the UK is “no longer an outlier” as he referred to the CDC’s advice in the US. However, the UK government remains reluctant to officially recommend that the public wear facemasks when they leave the house. The current PPE shortage could be fuelling this reluctance. The government understand the desperate need for NHS workers to be equipped with the much needed N-95 respirators and it fears that should they mandate the wearing of a facemask, supplies of this essential protective gear will be snapped up by the general public instead of being available for those that need it the most.
In short, it’s up to us- the general public- to opt to use cloth facemasks so we can curtail the spread of the virus and protect each other. Let’s work together, from grassroots up, to flatten the curve without taking away the essential PPE supplies from our heroic health care workers.