Should we still be wearing masks?

Should we still be wearing masks?

The question of whether we should still be wearing masks often comes up. There has been much confusion created during the course of the pandemic, spurred by conflicting or changing information over time. Health experts however are clear in their advice, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that the more people there are wearing masks, the better. So to answer the question of should I wear a mask?..the answer is yes!

There are numerous strands of evidence supporting the wearing of masks as a valuable tool in the battle against the spread of the virus. The primary route of transmission of COVID-19 is through the small droplets we eject from our mouths when coughing, sneezing or even just through speaking. Just as we were taught to cover our mouths when we cough as children, it should go without saying that placing a physical barrier over your nose and mouth will prevent the spread of these droplets.


And there is real world data to back up these claims. Analysis of public mask wearing across 196 countries has found that countries with cultural norms or policies requiring public mask-wearing at much lower per-capita mortality rates.

What type of mask is best?

A report by the BMJ has shown that different types of masks offer different levels of protection. Wearing a simple cloth covering is often the cheapest solution and can block approximately 70% of fine particles. Some countries such as France have deemed this as insufficient to protect public health and have advised that its citizens should no longer wear homemade masks or those made of fabric.

Medical face masks are those made to be worn by medical professionals and patients who may be infected and risk spreading the virus to others. These masks are relatively cheap, widely available to the public and filter approximately 95%-99% of fine particles. They come in two classifications, type II and type IIR which also offer splash protection.

N95 respirators are designed to achieve a very close fit and provide the greatest protection and filter 99.5% of fine particles. These masks tend to be harder to come by, can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods and are the most expensive to purchase. They are also not suitable for children or those with facial hair.

For these reasons, the best solution for most people would be type II or type IIR Medical face masks

The need to stay vigilant

While the UK is currently easing its policies on the restrictions put in place last December, we need to remain cautious and take steps to keep the virus at bay. A report by the New Scientist advised that most disease experts when queried have stated that the British public will need to continue wearing face masks until at least 2022.

Source: New Scientist

To date, over 138 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 worldwide, and close to 3 million have lost their lives. The UK currently ranks 3rd in Europe for total confirmed cases, and 6th in the world. As such it seems as though wearing face masks in public will be the new norm for some time to come.

You can keep up with the latest figures on the government covid summary page to stay informed about the current status of the virus both nationally and in your area.

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