A team of researchers from Cambridge University has recently put forth an argument that urges health agencies and governments to update the official guidelines on the prevention of COVID-19 and encourage everyone, and not only people with symptoms of coronavirus infection or health care workers to wear a mask when heading outdoors.
The current scientific evidence shows that a vast majority of people have asymptomatic COVID-19 and they are primarily the cause of widespread infection as they are unaware of carrying the virus themself.
Professor Babak Javid, who is a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a consultant in infectious diseases at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, specifically says:
“We know that a lot of transmission of the coronavirus occurs before people show any symptoms. Wearing masks is primarily to protect others, as well as offering some degree of protection to the wearer.”
In their article published in the British Medical Journal, the team of researchers stated that the advantages of wearing a mask in public spaces outweigh the potential skin damage and other problems.
Furthermore, they add that the previous research conducted on mask use did not take into account that the people are much more likely to follow all kinds of instructions including using masks when going outdoors during a health crisis such as COVID-19.
Secondly, ‘lack of effectiveness’ argument against the use of masks should not be considered given that the evidence on masks and other practices such as washing hands is almost similar.
Consequently, even if masks are only twenty percent effective, they should still be worn especially with a health issue like COVID-19 which is highly contagious and all preventive measures possible should be taken to prevent it.
Additionally, it should also be noted that despite the question about the effectiveness of wearing a mask in public, there is scientific evidence to show that it can still potentially prevent further spread of the coronavirus infection.
For concerns over the proper usage of the masks, the researchers suggest that the campaigns and awareness initiatives for promoting hand-washing can also emphasize the importance of wearing masks whenever going outdoors for any purpose.
Following such methods will not only ensure people wear properly fitted masks but will also make them aware of what kind of masks should they be buying and wearing.
The researchers suggest that fabric masks are the best option for common people as they are less likely to cause skin damage and not worsen the current shortage of medical masks that are needed by health workers in hospitals and health centers.
Dr. Michael Weekes from the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease (CITIID) states that while the evidence for benefits of wearing a face mask may be limited, it is always better to be extra cautious.
He adds that the production of fabric masks is also cheap and easy as well as affordable for people to buy and wear normally in comparison with specialized medical masks such as the N95 masks.
Dr. Nicholas Matheson, who is also from CITIID, concludes in the words “As we prepare to enter a ‘new normal,” wearing a mask in public may become the face of our unified action in the fight against this common threat, and reinforce the importance of social distancing measures.”
Wearing a fabric mask has also been added in the updated guidelines of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the official instructions of the majority of the health organizations in different parts of the world.
Following all instructions such as washing hands, using hand sanitizers, maintaining social distance, cutting time spent outdoors, and avoiding physical contact can significantly cut down the risk of COVID-19.