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Oxford COVID-19 study – “Face masks and coverings work”

oxford covid study

The University of Oxford has released a comprehensive report on a study that has concluded “cloth face coverings, even homemade masks made of the correct material, are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 – for the wearer and those around them”. Professor Melinda Mills, Director of the Leverhulme Centre and author of the study, says, “The evidence is clear that people should wear masks to reduce virus transmission and protect themselves, with most countries recommending the public to wear them. Yet clear policy recommendations that the public should broadly wear them has been unclear and inconsistent in some countries such as England.”

The team found that after the pandemic was announced by The WHO in March, 70 countries immediately recommended the wearing of face coverings, however now 120 recommend the wearing of them. Many Asian countries have already experienced virus outbreaks prior to COVID-19, and therefore are accustomed to the wearing of masks and adopted the widespread usage of them almost immediately. Even though the wearing of masks in countries like The UK and The US has never been commonplace before now, data shows that “As of late April, mask-wearing was up to 84% in Italy, 66% in the US and 64% in Spain, which increased almost immediately after clear policy recommendations and advice was given to the public.”

The study found:

  • Cloth face coverings are effective in protecting the wearer and those around them.
  • Behavioral factors are involved, including how people understand the virus and their perceptions of risk, trust in experts and government, can adversely affect mask wearing.
  • Face masks need to be seen as part of ‘policy packages’ with other measures such as social distancing and hand hygiene.
  • Clear and consistent policies and public messaging are key to the adoption of wearing face masks and coverings by the general public

The study found that some face coverings are more effective than others. Material that is loosely woven such as scarves are found to be the least effective, this is due to how well it fits on the face – tight fitting materials are better. Professor Mills insists ‘The general public does not need to wear surgical masks or respirators. We find that masks made from high quality material such as high-grade cotton, multiple layers and particularly hybrid constructions are effective. For instance, combining cotton and silk or flannel provide over 95% filtration, so wearing a mask can protect others.’ The crucial finding from this study is that wearing a cotton mask not only protects those who come into contact with the wearer, but also protects the wearer themselves.
This is crucial information, and shows that wearing a face covering is entirely beneficial in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Professor Mills has concluded that the general public need to be made aware of exactly how the virus is transmitted so that they can understand the risks. This study is then evidential to the fact that the general public should adopt face mask wearing in order to stop the spread of the virus.
At Bags of Ethics we have produced a range of organic cotton face coverings which are washable, reusable and breathable, meaning that they are a more sustainable option and are still effective in stopping the spread of the virus. To shop the collection, visit