How useful are face-masks during the corona crisis?
Experts can’t agree on this.
Should we wear them and if so who should wear them?
Do they protect me or the other person and which types of masks make sense at all.
In many Asian countries face masks are regarded as one of the main weapons in the fight against the coronavirus, and in China it’s even forbidden to be on the streets without a mask.
Now here in Europe, we have mixed feelings about wearing masks in times of scarcity.
Many believe masks should be reserved for healthcare workers who depend on protection but that view seems to have changed recently.
Now more and more local authorities do recommend to wear masks in public.
So let’s talk about face masks and what they can do for us during a pandemic.
Is wearing a face mask useful during the coronavirus crisis or is it all just nonsense?
Opinions are mixed but there seems to be a growing consensus that we can’t stay in permanent crisis mode. But how do we enter the lockdown without risking a rise in new cases and consequently a higher death toll?
Could compulsory face mask policies be the answer well in a moment?
We’ll talk to an expert from the WHO but first, this report – “Not all respirator masks are created equal.”
We can generally distinguish between three main types.
So-called filtering facepiece or FFP masks fit snugly around the nose mouth and chin and filter out the tiniest airborne particles.
The most effective type and lets no viruses in or out.
An exhalation valve makes breathing easier but increases the risk of viruses escaping. So an unveiled FFP mask protects both the wearer and the person.
They encounter a valve it only reliably protects the wearer.
FFP masks are in short supply worldwide so they should be mainly reserved for medical personnel.
A mask that’s often seen nowadays is this simple protective face piece for the mouth and nose known as a surgical mask.
It consists of several layers of paper or nonwoven fabric with a thin wire to make it fit over the nose.
When the wearer coughs or sneezes, the surgical mask blocks the large droplets but on inhalation air also flows in over the sides that means that mainly protects others from infection rather than the wearer.
Once the mask is wet from breathing after eight hours of wearing time at the most it has to be discarded.
In the COVID 19 crisis professionally manufactured masks are in short supply that’s led to a flourishing cottage industry in DIY masks, Whether using handkerchiefs, t-shirts, or vacuum cleaner bags. People all around the world are revving up their sewing machines.
A textile mask functions rather like a protective mask made of paper but generally has a poor seal and blocks only 1/3 of the droplets that a surgical mask does according to a study.
However, a cloth mask can be washed and reused. The most important thing is no matter which masks you wear it can only be effective if used with hygiene measures like thorough hand washing and keeping a safe distance from others.
As there some people say any mask is better than none others, however, warned that these masks give people a false sense of security.
For more information, I had a discussion with Professor Ben cowling at the University of Hong Kong.
His research there focuses on respiratory virus transmission and the impact of control measures and Prof. Cowling is also a co-director of the WHO Collaborating Center for infectious disease epidemiology and control at the H K U School of Public Health.
Q. There are still a lot of mask critics out there and there say that there’s simply not enough evidence that wearing masks could actually stop or at least reduce the spread of the virus. However, you were involved in a study that was published just last week, tell us a bit about that.
Ans. Sure, so the study that we did last week was very careful and an experimental study in a laboratory of how much virus comes out of the mouths of people with influenza or common cold infections including common core and virus.
we found a lot of viruses in the exhaled breath not only in the large droplets but also in the small particle aerosols. In the second part of the study, we looked at how well facemask blocked that virus from getting into the environment. We captured all of the exhaled breath that these patients were breathing now and we found substantial reductions in the virus that was able to get into the environment when those patients wore a surgical facemask including influenza and including human coronavirus.
Q. Well, that sounds to me like the study says that we should wear face masks, and perhaps it should even be mandatory. What do you say?
Ans. I think we need to be careful not to think that a face mask is a magic weapon against COVID. We know the best things that we can do in the community is stay at homestay away from other people because that’s what will definitely stop transmission but then if we do need to go out I think it might be better if people were wearing a mask than if they weren’t but you mentioned at the beginning the supply limitations is one of the big challenges to that kind of policy.
Q. All right just one more question about this discussion around whether or not we should wear face masks because it’s also linked to fears that Tsarskoe v2 could be airborne, What do we know about that?
Ans. Oh! we don’t know. I think that the jury’s still out. As you have mentioned earlier that face masks block the large droplets from coming out of someone who’s infected but for the other person who’s wearing them some of the air comes in the sides.
Actually, In both cases, the air will come in the sides and leak but they can still protect against droplets.
What we found in our study, was the actually surgical Masks can block many of the aerosol particles as well. So even if Tsarskoe v2 is airborne a surgical mask could still provide some benefits, obviously not as much as it would against the large respiratory droplets but it could still provide some benefits.
Q. Well I don’t know as you mentioned earlier surgical masks were any kind of mask really they’re in short supply right now a lot of people are turning to DIY masks. What kind of mask makes sense in your view for the general public?
Ans. Well, I think any mask is better than no mask but we know that materials that are a bit thicker probably have better filtration performance so a cotton mask a cloth mask is probably better than a scarf but we actually don’t know that much there haven’t been that many studies on the different choices and I think that’s now one of the priorities.
Q. Now you already mentioned that a mask can’t replace measures like social distancing or washing your hands, but there’s a lot of discussions now in Europe about an exit strategy from the lockdown “can face mask helps us return to almost normal life”. So are they prerequisites for ending the lockdown?
Ans. I don’t think masks are going to be a magic weapon that lets life go back to normal if people were just wearing masks and washing their hands.
I think they will do something but probably not enough to allow life to otherwise return to normal.
I think we’re still going to need a lot of social distancing and the other measures the tests and trace but maybe if we do the mass as well then every little bit will help.
Q. Is there a downside to wearing a face mask or why is there such a reluctance amongst even experts in recommending it.
You said any mask is better than none so is there a downside we should know about?
Ans. Yeah, some experts have been saying that perhaps people could choose between staying at home or going out and it’s better to stay at home. Everybody agrees with staying home but then if there was a mask available maybe that person would go out with a mask instead of staying at home with no mask. But trust me it’s better to stay at home. However, if you do really need to go out should be better to wear a mask than not wear a mask.
I think the experts are really saying there could be some consequence to behavior so that people wear the mask they think it makes them protected and actually, it’s more like a small benefit and if everybody does it then we get a small benefit as a community.
If you find yourself in a situation where wearing a mask is recommended there are some important rules to follow –
- Masks are only effective they are used in combination with good hand hygiene either use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. So before touching the mask and putting it on clean your hands.
- Check the mask for tears and holes and make sure to check which side is the top. It’s usually the one that has a metal strip in it.
- Masks do have an inside and an outside. The inside is usually the lighter colored one once you figured that out it’s time to put the mask on your face, now pinched the metal strip so it molds to the shape of your nose then cover your nose mouth and chin.
- Make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
- When you’re wearing a mask don’t touch it and don’t pull it up and down.
- While wearing it if you do touch it accidentally wash your hands.
- The same goes for it taking off the mask – pull the elastic strips from behind your ears and don’t touch the front of the mask and keep it away from your face then discard the mask immediately in a closed bin and again wash your hands.
- Surgical Masks are not for reuse. Replace them as soon as they start to get down.
- If you use self-made masks from textile those need to be washed at least sixty degrees after every use.
So stay safe and remember the best way to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus is by being physically distant and keeping your hands clean.
Face masks, lockdown, and of course the constant fear of catching the virus, many of us look for a way out of this nightmare.
By following conspiracy theories that explain what happens or by discovering old health myths that promise to keep us safe.
Beware the bearers of false gifts.
Better listen to DWS Derek Williams answers on some common questions-
Q. Is the virus killed by cold weather and snow?
Ans. Don’t forget that to the best of our knowledge this virus appeared in Wuhan in China last winter.
It was first reported on December 31st to the WHO that’s a day when temperatures in the city were just a few degrees above freezing.
Much of the current pandemic has occurred in the northern hemisphere in winter so there’s no reason to believe that cold weather kills SARS Cov 2 like influenza and other coronaviruses.
It seems to transmit quite well when temperatures are low possibly because that’s when people are spending lots of time together indoors.
Q. Can you kill the virus by spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body?
Ans. okay, this is a really bad idea the only place on your body where you should use alcohol-based sanitizers is on your hands because they are what transmits the virus to your face. That’s how it enters your body through the membranes in your nose or mouth or also your eyes and when using hand sanitizers you should pay close attention to recommendations about how frequently they can be used without causing damage to your skin.
Don’t ever spray a sanitizer or chemical on your body or your face you’ll do no good and you’ll possibly do a lot of harm.
Q. Is there a connection between covert 19 and 5g networks?
Ans. You’re referring to the conspiracy theory currently making the rounds on a lot of social media platforms that the spread of the virus is somehow linked to the spread of 5g technology.
Now, this was a brand-new myth for me and at first, I couldn’t believe it was serious because the idea is so patently absurd, but people are taking it seriously enough to go out and set fire to mobile communications masts.
Folks, let’s get something straight this disease is caused by a virus, not radio waves.
Let me repeat that it’s caused by a virus, not by radio waves.
Every national and international health body on the planet agrees on that. So if you’re somehow involved in spreading this idea, then please stop and especially stop if you’re one of the ones trying to burn down telecommunications infrastructure.