As people adapt to a new normal following several restrictions and as schools are set to re-open soon, the health authorities are now recommending to the general public to wear face masks in public areas, in an attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
At the start of the pandemic, there was a number of conflicting views from various public health bodies and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on whether face masks can prevent the new coronavirus from spreading from one person to another. In fact, the WHO initially disagreed on a protocol for the wearing of face masks, stating that there is no specific evidence showing that this has any potential benefit. Over time public health bodies and governments have changed their views regarding face masks and made these mandatory in certain contexts.
As research on the novel coronavirus continues to intensify, a growing number of studies show that masks are a powerful tool and bring a number of benefits.
Masks protect other people
Coronavirus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected individual cough, sneezes or talks. Face masks however can block these droplets. They act as a barrier to keep virus containing particles from escaping an infected individual and landing onto another person. Researchers at the Florida Atlantic University stated that without a face mask, droplets can travel up to approximately eight feet.
You may not realise that you are contagious
Primarily, the WHO recommended that only those infected with the coronavirus are to wear face masks, however it eventually became apparent that the virus can be transmitted by people before they show any symptoms and by people who never develop any symptoms at all.
Masks can protect you
Studies have shown that when people cover their mouth and nose with a face mask, this also offers protection for the individual. The more people adhere to the recommendations issued by the Public Health authorities, the less the virus circulates in the community.
Currently in the absence of a vaccine, the WHO states that the wearing of face masks will be effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning and by maintaining at least two meters of social distancing.