Should I Be Wearing a Face Mask?
Within the last few weeks your world has been flipped upside down. You may be asking yourself when will this end? What will happen to the schools? Will they have some self-raising flour in Morrisons? While all of those are understandably of great importance, another question that may be looming is should I be wearing a face mask?
This has caused great divide with governments, scientists, and the general public. Therefore, I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to throw my hat into the ring and give my own take on it. As it currently stands, The World Health Organisation is against the use of masks as there “is currently no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, including universal community masking, can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.” (WHO,2020) However, the Scottish Government has claimed “the evidence on the use of face coverings is limited, but there may be some benefit in wearing a facial covering” with references to food shopping and going on public transportation to name a few examples. Two very well respected sources providing different opinions would be enough to question your every thought you’ve ever had as to what is right anymore. However, it's worth noting the specific phrasing from the government – masking your face does not equate to wearing a face mask.
The coronavirus is mainly passed on through water droplets in the air that we breathe and can spread up to 2 metres. This is why social distancing, regular washing of hands, and staying at home is the most effective way of stopping the spread of the virus (nhsinform,2020). The wearing of a mask of shielding your face does not replace the measures stated above.
The protective masks have two functions, they can either protect the wearer from getting the virus, or similarly they can protect others from getting infected by the wearer. If you are trying to protect yourself with the mask you need a specialist fitting for this. It is much easier to stop spreading transmission for others, and this is most important in our society. If we can reduce transmission this way then the amount of Covid related deaths should drop, “luckily, blocking transmission outward at the source is much easier. It can be accomplished with something as simple as a cloth mask.” (theatlantic.com,2020).
It is common knowledge that the UK and the rest of the world is suffering a giant PPE shortage - and a face mask will be of a lot more benefit to a specially trained nurse than someone riding on a bus or buying some essential alcohol. By all means I am not saying go out and risk your life by not protecting yourself or your loved ones. But equally, please do not go out and stock up on these masks for public use as it is taking them away from the healthcare professionals that need it most. We are the ones on the frontline trying to ensure life goes on as normally as possible and we need the correct equipment to do this. As previously stated, there is very limited evidence suggesting proper face masks are of benefit in a public setting. But instead “a facial covering of the mouth and nose, that is made of cloth or other textiles and through which you can breathe, for example a scarf.” (gov.scot,2020).
In a nutshell, there is very limited evidence showing that face masks should be used in public. It is taking away vital equipment from the medical professionals that need as many items of personal protective equipment as possible. Without this we are unable to do our jobs properly. I think it is unnecessary to go to these extremes to buy the masks when a scarf will do just as good a job, surely you’ve got one of these in the house somewhere?
Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives. You’ve heard it a million times now but it really is that simple. We are all still here for you during these scary times, so we need you to be here for us.
By Matthew Jennings