Can face coverings give rise to a false sense of security from COVID-19 virus?

One and sixty countries in the world have made it mandatory for their residents to wear face coverings in public places. This is one of the measures recommended to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19. This is to be coupled with hand hygiene and social distancing in order to curtail viral transmission. But would such coverings for face and mouth area give rise to a false sense of security and not really assist in prevention of spread of the deadly virus?

Face coverings for COVID-19-could they cause a false sense of security?

More than 160 countries of the world have mandated use of face coverings in public areas. This is after the COVID-19 pandemic in order to cut the transmission of the virus. But would such sort of a face cover give rise to a false sense of security to the wearers as well as the others around them. Scientists from the University of Cambridge and King’s College London tried to seek an answer for this.

Face coverings [Source: BBC UK]
The researchers put up their findings in BMJ Analysis. After their detailed study, they have concluded that face coverings do not give rise to a false sense of security. And this is useful even when the wearers do not practice social distancing and hand hygiene.

More about the analysis

The scientists state that the concept of risk compensation is a threat to public health because this would demotivate policymakers from implementing potentially beneficial modes of spread prevention such as face masks. When face coverings are worn correctly, they limit the spread of the virus along with hand hygiene and keeping safe distance between individuals.

Protective face masks (Source: Medicinenet)

The exact extent to which face masks assist in viral transmission prevention remains unclear but the researchers have urged the administration to continue to ask people to wear them. This is because the risks are minimal and the potential benefits significant.

Risk compensation behavior

WHO had warned earlier that enforcing face masks would give people a false sense of security. And they would forego other protective measures such as hand washing and safe distancing socially. This is ‘risk compensation’. Professor Dame Theresa Marteau at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit, University of Cambridge and his team addressed these concerns.

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Dame and his colleagues performed a systematic review of data. And they reached the conclusion that the available evidence on the subject does not justify the concern. Professor Dame said:

“The concept of risk compensation, rather than risk compensation itself, seems the greater threat to public health through delaying potentially effective interventions that can help prevent the spread of disease,”

Face coverings [Source: BBC UK]
Co-author Dr. James Rubin from the Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London added:

“Many public health bodies are coming to the conclusion that wearing a face-covering might help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2. And the limited evidence available suggests their use doesn’t have a negative effect on hand hygiene,”