Face masks intercept airborne transmission of the COVID-19 virus

June 19, 2020
Face masks intercept airborne transmission of the COVID-19 virus

What we already know about the novel coronavirus is that it is transmitted via droplets that are expelled from an infected persons mouth when they cough, sneeze or exhale.

Transmission between people occurs one of two ways; if you are standing too close and inhale the droplets in the air, or if those droplets settle onto a surface and you then make direct contact with the contaminated area before touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

In a recent study by PNAS: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, researchers explained that while direct contact precautions helped to minimise the spread of the virus, there’s evidence to suggest face masks prevented tens of thousands of people from contracting the COVID-19 illness through airborne transmission.

This was backed up by reports that New York City experienced a 3% decline in daily new infections recorded between April and May, with similar results calculated in Italy, when mask-wearing became compulsory for its citizens.


What does this mean for Australia?

The Federal Government’s latest advice for Australians, states that wearing face masks is not mandatory if you’re well. However, the threat of contracting the COVID-19 virus is still active, therefore social distancing measures and hygiene practises are highly recommended.

In the general sense, it appears that the majority of the population do not need to wear face masks. But as infected people can be asymptomatic, the risk is still there for those not adhering to the required social distancing measures and/or wearing a face mask in public settings.

The newly recorded cases of people testing positive to coronavirus have been linked to the recent protests held across Australia, giving evidence to the fact that contracting COVID-19 from someone infected with the virus is exponentially higher in larger crowds.

What we can learn from this, is that wearing a face covering is still essential in places where people are in close proximity or social distancing is not possible, like most public transport options and social gathering places in our cities.

However, as restrictions begin to ease and more people are allowed back into enclosed spaces like restaurants, pubs, cinemas, gyms and public venues, the risk of community transmission heightens so we still need to be vigilant and safe.

Our best advice is to socially distance where you can, but if that is not possible or if you feel unsafe, protect yourself with a properly fitting disposable face mask.


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