Health Health Matters

Evidence shows that if we all wear masks it will make a difference

Frieda Paton

Who isn’t battle-weary from COVID-19? Four months of lockdown. Ever-changing regulations that get us hot under the collar. Job losses and financial struggles. No alcohol, tobacco, visiting friends or family. Most of us willingly complied in the beginning to flatten the curve, but – be honest – who has not yet broken the COVID-law, even a little bit?

From social media and what we see and hear around us, it is obvious that the public is rebelling – and this while cases are escalating dramatically across the country. Unfortunately, the public resistance is also extending to those public health measures which can limit the spread of the virus: wearing a mask, social distancing and hand sanitising (Yes, I know, I the refrain is putting my teeth on edge as well.)

Adding to public resistance against wearing a mask is the fact that the public was initially told that it wasn’t necessary to wear a mask in public. Because of shortage, the available medical masks had to be kept for frontline workers and it was said that cloth masks would not stop the spread of the virus. Now we are asked to accept that they will work after all. What do we make of these mixed messages? Furthermore, neuroscientists describe a phenomenon known as “anchoring bias” where our subconscious gives more credit to initial data and we tend to hold on firmly to our first impressions.

However, since the early days of the pandemic actual evidence about the nature of COVID-19 and how universal masking can help to reduce the spread of the virus, has grown considerably. It is now known that the virus is not only spread by large droplets but also through small droplets that travel further and remain airborne for longer. These small droplets, which could contain hundreds of virus particles, are expelled even then we speak. Also clear, is that infected persons spread the virus even before they show any symptoms.

A further important finding is that the number of viruses entering your body determines whether you become infected, experience mild symptoms, or become severely ill. While cloth masks cannot protect you against the virus completely, they do block most of the droplets. Therefore, universal masking can significantly reduce the viral load during contact and in the environment. The effectiveness of universal masking is supported further by the low death rates in several countries in the East where masking is an accepted cultural norm.

Based on the current scientific evidence public health experts now believe that universal masking is probably the most important measure in the battle against COVID-19 and could reduce the number of cases within weeks. It is one way in which all of us can help to get past this pandemic. So be considerate and ethical – wear your mask to protect yourself, your loved ones and the rest of the community.


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