Scientific evidence for the use of face masks
Back at the beginning of the pandemic, the Spanish government said that masks were not necessary for those who did not show symptoms. Now they have done a complete U-turn and made wearing a face mask compulsory in enclosed spaces and on the street when keeping a distance of two metres cannot be guaranteed.
It’s likely that they’ve been paying attention to the scientific evidence for wearing a mask as one of the measures to help restrict the spread of the virus. Most of the research available at the beginning of the pandemic focused on how well a mask could protect the wearer from becoming infected, rather than how well wearing a mask could prevent an infected person passing on the virus to others. Of course, masks as personal protective equipment (PPE) are very important to health workers, but there wasn’t much evidence to support wider use.
But it turns out that masks – even hygienic fabric masks that are not PPE – are very effective at preventing infected people passing the virus on to others. The fabric blocks the larger droplets and the humidity created between the mask and the face prevents these larger droplets from evaporating into smaller “droplet nuclei” which would be small enough to pass through the mask. Studies have suggested that if 80% of people wore masks in public, the virus could be halted. It seems that the Spanish government has taken this information into consideration.
Another problem that may have made governments reluctant to make wearing a mask compulsory is concern about shortages of PPE masks which are obviously much-needed in hospitals.
But a mask does not have to be PPE to be effective against transmission of the virus in public places - hygienic fabric face masks will effectively reduce transmission of the virus without using up valuable PPE. Recognising this, the government has issued a specification UNE 0065 to encourage the manufacture of good-quality hygienic face masks for use by the general public. MasksForAll masks comply with this specification.
The scientific evidence makes a lot of sense when you think about it – we all emit respiratory droplets just by breathing and talking, and especially if we cough or sneeze. An infected person wearing a mask will not shed as many virus-containing respiratory droplets as they would if they weren’t wearing a mask. That means fewer virus particles in the air and on surfaces for other people to pick up.
And as an added bonus, a person wearing a mask cannot touch their mouth or nose – which is the most common way for the virus to find its way from surfaces into the body.
It looks as though we’ll be wearing masks in public places for some considerable time to come if we’re to have any chance of getting back to some kind of normality.
If you haven’t got the skills or time to make your own mask, MasksForAll has a great range of designs, colours and sizes for the whole family. You can check out our full collection here, or read more about our locally made masks here.