Wearing a mask – will it prevent you from getting COVID-19?

The primary purpose of wearing a mask during the Covid pandemic is to reduce the risk of transmitting a viral load to another person, or receiving a viral load.

How does COVID-19 spread?

There is no official evidence at this point in time to suggest that people can catch Covid by handling or consuming food, via drinking water, by swimming in contaminated lakes, oceans or rivers, or by touching pets.

The primary means of contracting the virus is by being infected by airborne droplets or particles containing the virus or touching surfaces or objects contaminated by those droplets. This is the scientific basis for wearing a mask, in order to reduce risk of transmission in this way.

Scientifically, it is known that droplets or small particles are released when we cough, sing, laugh, sneeze or talk, etc. These are the primary ways coronavirus is transmitted from human to human. These respiratory droplets are breathed in by others, or they land on people’s eyes, noses or mouths, often propelled there by someone’s sneeze. Eyes, noses and mouths are major points of entry for the virus.

Researchers suggest that the droplets can travel anywhere from one metre to eight metres (roughly as long as a London bus) in the air.
Once the virus has gained entry, its goal is to reproduce itself inside you. From that point in, you are infected.

Which masks are the most effective?

To block 100% of the virus load would require a mask to be 100% airtight which is obviously not practical.

Single use N95 respirator masks used by health care workers block around 95% of infectious particles. Cloth masks or scarves wrapped around the face are far less effective at blocking these particles and a thin face covering or one made with an open-weave fabric may even block less than 10% of them.

However, common sense provides that ANY reduction (even a small one) is worthwhile and of benefit. There will be a reduction in the quantity of infected droplets released from a person simply by wearing a face covering, no matter how basic.

A video specially created to show the movement of airflow when coughing though various types of face covering was made by an Engineer called Matthew Staymates of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the USA.

The visual results of his demonstration (available to view on the NIST website) showed how effective different types of mask or face coverings were compared with each other, but also importantly proved that wearing no mask at all greatly increased the spread of respiratory droplets in the air by coughing or talking.

You may have seen a few people wearing their mask pulled down below the nose, but as demonstrated by the video, in order to be effective to any meaningful level, the face covering should cover mouth and nose.

Can I still catch Coronavirus if I am wearing a mask?

So the short answer is yes, mask wearing will not guarantee that you will not catch Covid-19, but it will help reduce your risk of catching it or passing it to others. This means that it relies on people taking this public health measure not only for their own protection but for the protection of others too. It is necessary to work together in order to achieve the reciprocal benefit of wearing a mask in public.

In conclusion, along with washing hands, social distancing measures, disinfecting surfaces, and ventilating indoor spaces, wearing a well-fitting face covering over mouth and nose will certainly help reduce the risk of a person catching Covid-19. It will also help minimise transmission from human to human and, in the long term, reduce the risk of developing variants of the disease and extending the duration of this pandemic.

Regular testing is another key to help reduce transmission rates. We offer the following Coronavirus related products. Please see below:

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