What does the research say about face masks?
Health experts say the evidence is clear that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that the more people wearing masks, the better.
A Victorian Government press release states that studies have recently shown that, even when factoring in imperfections and human error, wearing face masks can reduce transmission of coronavirus by around 60 per cent.
A systemic review commissioned by WHO (World Health Organisation) found masks reduced the risk of spread by 67 per cent, while a close-fitting protective device such as an N95 respiratory mask reduced it by more than 95 per cent.
Does the type of mask make a difference?
The type of face mask or covering does make a difference. Some types are more effective at reducing droplet spread than others. Research performed by Flordia Atlantic University simulated droplet spread from coughs using a fog machine and green laser. They then simulated the efficacy of 4 common types of face masks – a loose bandana, a cone-style mask, a folded handkerchief, and a homemade two-layer cotton mask. This can be seen in the video below which makes for fascinating viewing.
Overall research indicates that the best mask is an N95 respirator mask as this blocks 95% of particles. Out of the masks tested in the video above, the cone-style and home made cotton masks were the most effective. If ranking various types of masks in order from most effective to least effective it would look like:
- N95 Mask
- Surgical / Cone style masks
- Home made 3 or 2 layer cotton mask
Whilst some masks are better than others at the end of the day it’s important to remember that any face covering is still better than wearing nothing when trying to stop the spread of COVID-19.