Scientists strongly endorsed maintaining the wearing of masks in enclosed public spaces during the summer. As Covid-19 cases continue to skyrocket, face coverings offer people the most robust way to limit the spread of the disease in cafes, theaters and restaurants, they said last week .
Rates of new Covid-19 cases topped 50,000 a day last week, prompting scientists and health experts to warn the country could be forced into a lockdown later this year as the increasing numbers of infections are expected to continue through the fall. Under these circumstances, they said, the wearing of masks should be maintained despite the government’s refusal to formalize such a move.
“If you don’t wear masks, the virus will spread further. It’s that simple, ”said Julian Tang, clinical virologist at the University of Leicester.
Tang said the masks clearly limit the spread of viral particles from an infected person and also reduce a carrier’s chances of getting an infection from someone else. “The masks work both ways,” he told the Observer.
“If you assume that a mask halves transmission at least, that means for every 1,000 virus particles an infected person exhales, only 500 will leave your mask. Then, when these particles reach someone else, so their masks will ensure at least a double reduction in the number. viruses reaching their mouths or noses. In other words, of the 1,000 virus particles that an infected person has expired, only about 250 will reach another person. This should reduce infection rates, which is why masks are important. “
This point was supported by Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia. “Most of the studies are observational and prone to all kinds of bias, but overall there is a consistent conclusion that face coverings have advantages both for protecting others if the wearer is infected and also for protect the wearer from others, “he told the Observer. “Estimates vary, but they probably reduce transmission between 10 and 25%. “
However, it is crucial that there is a heavy use of the mask, said Paul Edelstein, professor emeritus of pathology at the University of Pennsylvania. “Good protection requires most people to wear masks; wearing a standard cloth or medical mask in a room with unmasked infected people is unlikely to offer much protection; basically, the mask should be worn by most people in order to reduce infection rates, ”he added.
Edelstein said experiments have shown that multi-layered fabric masks are likely to offer better control and protection than loosely woven single-layered masks. “There is also relatively little transmission to the outdoors when there is good ventilation, so masks are generally superfluous under these circumstances. However, being in a stampede, yelling at a crowd outside is probably a greater risk than when walking on a quiet street.
Catherine Noakes, professor of environmental engineering for buildings at the University of Leeds, said people should realize that they would not wear masks forever.
“However, at times of very high viral prevalence, as we are experiencing now, they start to become really important. The more other protective measures are removed, the more we have to make sure that the measures we have left work, and encouraging people to wear good quality masks is one of the most important of these. “
She added: “If you are in a store, restaurant or train where there are a lot of people, there is a good chance that one of them is infected. However, the more people who wear masks in these settings, the greater the reduction in virus transmission and infections. “