To wear or not to wear protective face masks in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic?

Nowadays, everyone is seen around at all places worldwide sporting the protective face masks to protect themselves from the highly virulent coronavirus infection. But the protective role of the face masks is debatable. Therefore should one wear or not wear a face mask???

Protective face masks and coronavirus infection-the World Health Organization guidelines

WHO has taken the data from Hong Kong into consideration and reviewed the role of face masks as a protective tool against coronavirus. The organization has released the updated guidance on Monday. 6 April 2020. It states that face masks inhibit the spread of the virus but they are insufficient if used alone. Besides, it adds that there is no concrete proof to say that a healthy person with a face mask will not get the infection including Covid-19.

Protective face masks (Source: Financial Times)

Prof David Heymann from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is chairman of the WHO’s scientific and technical advisory group for infectious hazards. He said that masks are for the protection of the health care workers who are dealing with the cases. David added:

“Face masks are only for the protection of others, not for the protection of oneself.”

Though even asymptomatic people and carriers can transmit the virus, the spread is only through infected droplets and contaminated surfaces. But physical distancing and regular handwashing cuts down this likelihood. Therefore, the recommendation is that people with coronavirus symptoms should necessarily wear a face mask, self-isolate and seek expert medical advice as soon as they start to feel unwell. Additionally, those caring for such people should also wear a face mask when they are in the same room. But routine use of face masks in public is not needed.

CDC and its recommendations

The guidance of the WHO is bang opposite to that of CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The latter had urged the general public in the USA to wear cloth face coverings or masks in pharmacies, groceries, and such public places where physical distancing is hard to maintain.

Protective face masks (Source: Al Jazeera)

So now the question is whether to wear a face mask or not. Professor David explains that wearing face masks could create a false sense of security in the wearer. This could end up putting people at greater risk of infection. Besides, even with the mouth and nose fully covered, the virus can still enter the body through the eyes. So the protection is not complete with a face mask. He said:

“People think they are protected when they are not. Healthcare workers, in addition to the masks, wear visors too, to protect the eyes.”

Other problems of the face mask

Besides the incomplete protection, face masks may in fact aid the spread of the virus. The reason is that when people adjust, remove, or dispose off the face mask, they may contaminate it with their infected hands and spread might take place.

WHO has said that people who use the masks in public should do so safely. Besides, it urged the governments who have made it mandatory to wear face masks for its citizens to carry out simultaneous studies to evaluate its effectiveness.

Protective face masks (Source: Medicinenet)

William Keevil, Professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton said that most probably governments under pressure wanted to do something. But they did not check whether face masks are really useful or just a waste of money, resources, and time. William said:

Cloth masks and poor quality surgical face masks will not filter fine respiratory droplets, and certainly not aerosols, which some are now claiming to be an infection risk. The major question that needs to be addressed is: what about protecting the eyes, a known route of entry?.”

Is there any role of the face mask manufacturers in pushing the governments to make face masks an essential in public areas?

Click to read on Protective face masks have become a wellness trend and an item of Fashion!

Source: The Guardian