With the outbreak of COVID-19 leading to new rules regarding face masks, many are wondering how effective they are in protecting us. According to the WHO, face masks and coverings alone cannot protect against COVID-19, however, they do help to prevent those with symptoms from spreading the virus further, and when used alongside other methods such as hand washing and social distancing, can be very effective in preventing the spread of viruses.
How do Face Masks Work?
Face masks work to prevent the spread of coronavirus by impeding respiratory droplets from dispersing into the air when someone coughs or sneezes. This is helpful because COVID-19 is understood to spread through airborne transmission. Therefore, if someone who had contracted COVID-19 sneezed whilst wearing a mask, there is less chance of them spreading the virus. Of course, masks alone are not sufficient enough in protecting people from catching coronavirus, however, WHO has indicated that wearing them will help, along with other health and safety precautions.
What Else Can I Do to Protect Myself Against a Virus?
As previously mentioned, face masks can help to prevent the spread of viruses, but facial coverings alone cannot protect us. This is why it is important to follow extra precautionary measures to ensure the safety of yourself and others. Here’s what else you can do:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Use hand sanitiser
- Distance yourself from others. Currently, the requirement in the UK is that you must keep at least a 1-metre distance from others.
- Stick to the rules and guidelines in shops and public spaces
- Avoid touching your face and your mask
Are Medical Masks Better?
Whilst wearing a medical mask alone cannot 100% protect you, the WHO recommends medical masks over non-medical, fabric masks; this is because there is not enough evidence to confirm their effectiveness. That said, the WHO has advised the government to encourage public use of non-medical face masks when in settings where there is limited space to socially distance, large crowds of people (such as in train stations) and areas of widespread transmission.
Who should wear a medical mask?
PPE masks can help prevent the spread of coronavirus and WHO has indicated that certain groups should wear these over non-medical face masks. These groups include:
- Those believed to have contracted COVID-19 (especially if they are experiencing any of the symptoms)
- Health workers
- Those who are part of the at-risk group (such as those over the age of 60 or people with existing health issues)
- Anyone caring for those believed to have contracted COVID-19 or has been confirmed to have the virus.