Since March, mask-wearing has become essential when leaving your home. As the world embraces the potential of second waves of the novel coronavirus, it could play a pivotal role in preventing further waves with measures of lockdowns, according to a new study.
Researchers conducted by scientists from Cambridge and Greenwich Universities found that in order to stop the reemergence of the virus in the future, the entire population – yes, 100% — would need to wear masks at all times in public, which combined with quarantine measures, could stop the second wave from coming.
The research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, called for mask-wearing for all, regardless of whether some show symptoms or not.
“Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of facemasks by the public,” said lead author Dr. Richard Stutt, in a press release.
“If widespread facemask use by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and re-opening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine.”
The study used models to figure out the dynamics of spread and accessed different scenarios of facemask use in conjunction with periods of lockdown. Researchers also included curveballs such as infection and transmission of the virus via surface and air, and also included increased face touching.
Researchers said reproduction or “R” needed to stay below 1.0 for the pandemic to slow. They found that if people wore masks every time in public, it was twice as effective at reducing “R” compared to if people only wore masks after symptoms appeared.
“In all modelling scenarios, routine facemask use by 50% or more of the population reduced COVID-19 spread to an R less than 1.0, flattening future disease waves and allowing less-stringent lockdowns.
“Viral spread reduced further as more people adopted masks when in public. 100% mask adoption combined with on/off lockdowns prevented any further disease resurgence for the 18 months required for a possible vaccine.”
“There is a common perception that wearing a facemask means you consider others a danger,” said Professor John Colvin, a coauthor from the University of Greenwich. “In fact, by wearing a mask you are primarily protecting others from yourself.”
“Cultural and even political issues may stop people wearing facemasks, so the message needs to be clear: my mask protects you, your mask protects me.”