The Universities of Cambridge and Greenwich (see here) published research today calling for information campaigns to encourage more widespread wearing of face masks.
The research suggests that lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of COVID-19, but that requiring everyone to wear a face mask in public, combined with on/off lockdowns could prevent a second wave of the virus for 18 months. The study found that if people wear masks whenever they are in public it is twice as effective at reducing ‘R’ than if masks are only worn after symptoms appear.
The modelling suggested that this would create the time gap needed to find a vaccine or effective treatment by keeping the COVID-19 reproduction number (R rate) below 1.0, something not possible with lockdowns alone.
Lead author, Dr Richard Stutt said: “Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public. If widespread face mask use by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and re-opening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine.”
In all modelling scenarios, researchers found routine face mask use by at least half of the population reduced COVID-19 spread to an R less than 1.0. This flattened future disease waves and allowed less-stringent lockdowns.
Professor John Colvin, co-author from the University of Greenwich, said: “There is a common perception that wearing a face mask means you consider others a danger. In fact, by wearing a mask you are primarily protecting others from yourself. Cultural and even political issues may stop people wearing face masks, so the message needs to be clear: ‘my mask protects you, your mask protects me’. In the UK, the approach to face masks should go further than just public transport. The most effective way to restart daily life is to encourage everyone to wear some kind of mask whenever they are in public.”
The key for wearers – if masks are to become so prevalent – is to ensure comfort, especially in scenarios where all-day wear may be required. Cheap surgical or DIY masks often get hot, moist and uncomfortable, so investing a little more in breathable masks, such as the Air Queen products we sell, makes sense