London – A fellowship of some of the most eminent scientists says everyone should wear a face covering to protect against Covid-19.
The Royal Society in London, UK, said new evidence shows masks protect the wearer and those around them.
Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the society, said: “A new review of evidence reinforces the benefits of face coverings and even suggests they may protect the wearer as well as those around them.”
“The virus has not been eliminated, so as we lift lockdown and people increasingly interact with each other we need to use every tool we have to reduce the risk of a second wave of infection,” he said.
“There are no silver bullets but alongside hand washing and physical distancing, we also need everyone to start wearing face coverings, particularly indoors in enclosed public spaces where physical distancing is often not possible.”
“The UK is way behind many countries in terms of wearing masks and clear policies and guidelines about mask wearing for the public,” he added.
“The public have taken to handwashing and distancing but remain sceptical about face coverings.”
“There are multiple factors as to why the public have not taken to face coverings.
“The message has not been clear enough so perhaps people do not really understand the benefits or are not convinced of them.
“If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. We lower the chances of future surges and lockdowns which are economically and psychologically disruptive.”
“Wearing a mask did not bother our Italian, French or Spanish neighbours, none of whom were used to wearing one before the pandemic yet now do so routinely. So just treat it as another item of clothing that is part of the new normal and wear it whenever you cannot socially distance safely,” Ramakrishnan said.
The comments come as two new reports are published on face coverings.
The first presents mounting evidence for the effectiveness of wearing face coverings in reducing the risk of transmission and presents new evidence suggesting that face coverings could also provide protection to the wearer.
The report is authored by Paul Edelstein, Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and Lalita Ramakrishan, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, University of Cambridge.
It is an update on an earlier report from Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE), a multi-disciplinary group convened by the Royal Society.
Prof. Edelstein said: “The evidence for the benefit of wearing face coverings in protecting others from infection is becoming clearer all the time.”
“In fact, we have now identified convincing decades-old and apparently forgotten evidence, from the time when surgical masks were made of cloth and were reusable, showing that they help to prevent transmission of airborne infectious agents.
“There is now even some evidence that masks might directly benefit the wearer,” he said.
“The basics are simple to understand. There are people without symptoms going about their daily business who are unknowingly breathing out droplets that are carrying the virus.”