Much has been written and said about the efficacy of face masks.
The consensus now, at least from our Health Minister and our Department of Health, is that everyone in South Africa should wear a cloth face mask when in public.
When it comes to putting the face mask on, we can all learn from our president’s address last night, and his meme-worthy ending.
The man was clearly exhausted, so let’s cut him some slack.
Writing on Medium (where it’s worthwhile exercising caution about what information you trust), Tomas Pueyo, along with a range of experts, has looked at some basic steps everyone can follow to avoid the transmission of COVID-19.
The post is a lengthy one, but this is the part we will focus on:
…broadly half of infections come from people who have symptoms, but half come from people who don’t have them yet. If only people with symptoms wear masks, you will prevent less than half the infections. If everybody wears them, you could prevent most of them…
This doesn’t even include another value of masks: preventing infectious people from contaminating surfaces, and healthy people from touching them and carrying the virus to their face.
If you click on the image below, you’ll see an enlarged version, but the two factors in play are how many people are wearing masks, and how effective the mask is.
Different fabrics have different efficacy ranges – see here for more.
The paper cited above is ‘Calibrated Intervention and Containment of the COVID-19 Pandemic’, and can be found here.
Whilst it is made clear that these studies “should not be relied upon without context to guide clinical practice or health-related behaviour”, there has been a shift towards understanding the importance of wearing face masks in public.
When done in conjunction with other safety protocols, it can prove effective in reducing the spread of the virus.
Importantly, members of the public should not wear surgical or N95 masks, because there is a chronic shortage and they need to be reserved for healthcare workers and those on the frontlines.
For more on face mask protocol, and safe usage, see the guidelines published by our Department of Health last week.
You should also read through the analysis published on AfricaCheck, titled ‘Not all cloth masks are equal, but better than no protection from coronavirus‘.
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