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Face masks can protect the wearer

oxford covid study

“Face coverings can protect the wearer too” – The University of Oxford has said that face coverings can “reduce your odds”.

Face coverings have previously been promoted by the fact that they protect others from catching the coronavirus from those who may be asymptomatic, however new evidence suggests that they also may protect you as well. The University of Oxford’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science found that cloth face coverings, including homemade masks, are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19, for both the wearer, and those around them. Professor Melinda Mills who is the author of the study has said that she believes that if people understand that wearing a mask can also protect themselves, then they would be more willing to wear one. “We found that the countries where mask use was the highest and most effective were the ones where people actually understood how masks work and that they protect the wearer and those around them,” she said.

Their analysis compared the results of several studies, looking at the wearing of cloth masks, compared with wearing no mask at all. Wearing a cotton mask was associated with a 54% lower risk of infection compared to the no-mask group. “It is not 100% protective but does reduce your odds,” says Prof Mills. The study found that the effectiveness of a mask is dependent on several different variables – whether the mask filters particles of a specific size, are there gaps particles could squeeze through, and can the mask be cleaned or re-used? The study found that the most effective face coverings are made from high-grade, tightly woven material such as cotton, have multiple layers, and are fitted correctly with no gaps.

The most effective fabrics are tightly woven ones, as they filter the air the best, and the least effective are loosely woven fabrics such as a scarf, the study found. Fit is very important, studies have found that even surgical masks an become less effective if they do not fit properly. Dr David Strain, clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter and chair of the British Medical Association’s medical academic staff committee, has said “It can be reasonably expected that a well-made three-ply [three-layer] cloth mask would perform just as well as a surgical mask in preventing transmission”. In terms of how it benefits the wearer, homemade cotton masks have been able to filter out 60% of particles, compared to the 75% filtered by surgical masks, he says. “This would suggest neither would provide optimal protection to an individual, although each still do offer some protection from becoming infected.”

This study concluded that the effectiveness of masks needs to be understood by the public to allow more people to adopt the wearing of them. Conflicting information throughout the pandemic has led to a lack of public confidence in their effectiveness, however studies like these show that widespread use of face coverings of any kind will help prevent the spread of COVID-19, protecting both the wearer and the general public.

At Bags of Ethics, we have produced a range of washable, reusable, fabric face coverings. They are made from a tightly-woven organic cotton sateen, one of the most effective fabrics at filtering droplets, and have adjustable straps allowing the wearer to tightly fit the mask to their face. To shop the collection, visit



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