Widespread Face Masks Could Control Second Wave, British Study Says

The widespread wearing of face masks — even homemade ones — could go a long way toward reducing coronavirus transmission rates and might help control a second wave of the virus, according to a British study released Wednesday.

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Scientists from Cambridge and Greenwich universities said stay-at-home orders aren’t enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But when lock-down periods are combined with 100% face mask use, “there is vastly less disease spread, secondary and tertiary waves are flattened and the epidemic is brought under control,” said the study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

“We conclude that face mask use by the public, when used in combination with physical distancing or periods of lock-down, may provide an acceptable way of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and re-opening economic activity,” the study said.

The researchers recommended the British government do more to promote mask-wearing, make more N95 medical-quality masks available, and provide clear instructions on how the public can make masks at home.

“In summary, our modelling analyses provide support for the immediate, universal adoption of face masks by the public,” the study said.

Reuters said researchers “linked the dynamics of spread between people with population-level models” to measure the virus’s reproduction rate (known as the R value) under different scenarios of mask adoption combined with periods of lockdown.

“The study found that if people wear masks whenever they are in public it is twice as effective at reducing the R value than if masks are only worn after symptoms appear,” Reuters said.

The World Health Organization recently changed its stance on wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

People over 60 and people with underlying medical conditions should wear a medical-grade mask when they’re in public and cannot socially distance, the WHO said. The general public should wear a three-layer fabric mask or N95 mask in those situations.

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