Widespread use of face masks may prevent new Covid-19 outbreaks

Hyperaxion Jun 19, 2020

Study indicates that social distancing will only work if combined with another measure: the use of face masks by at least 50% of the population.

Research from the University of Cambridge, England, indicates that social distancing and lockdown measures alone are not enough to prevent new Covid-19 outbreaks. In an article published on June 10 in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A, scientists say that social distancing will only work if combined with the use of face masks by at least 50% of the population.

Widespread use of face masks may prevent new Covid-19 outbreaks
(Credit: leo2014 / Pixabay).

“Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of facemasks by the public,” said Richard Stutt, the study’s leader, in a statement. “If widespread facemask use by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and reopening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine.”

As they explain in the article, the researchers evaluated the dynamics of the spread of the new coronavirus among individuals considering population-level models, evaluating varying degrees of adoption of the use of face masks and lockdowns of different durations.

The modeling also included the different stages of infection and transmission of the virus through surfaces and through the air, in addition to the negative aspects of wearing the mask, such as increased contact with the face.

The study found that if a large part of the population wears a mask whenever they are in public, the R index (the number of individuals that a person with Covid-19 infects) decreases considerably. For the pandemic to be contained, this rate must remain below 1.

According to the scientists, in all the scenarios analyzed, the use of a face mask proved to be important – and when at least 50% of the population adopted the practice, the R index was less than 1. Estimates also show that if 100% of people were wearing masks, new waves of contamination would be avoided for at least 18 months – time needed to develop a vaccine against Covid-19.

The team also investigated the effectiveness of different types of masks and concluded that homemade ones, made from reused cotton, have a 90% effectiveness in preventing the transmission of Sars-CoV-2.

“There is a common perception that wearing a facemask means you consider others a danger. In fact, by wearing a mask you are primarily protecting others from yourself,” explained John Colvin, co-author of the study. “Cultural and even political issues may stop people wearing facemasks, so the message needs to be clear: my mask protects you, your mask protects me.”

Related topics:

Coronavirus Covid-19

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