During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, across the world governments have implemented rules that stipulate face coverings must be worn in order to help limit the spread of the virus. We are now seeing people everywhere covering their nose and mouth with protective coverings, some more inventive than others, but why do we actually need to do this?
A few months ago, someone walking down the streets of London wearing a surgical mask was an uncommon sight, however they are now commonplace, and a reminder of these new and strange times that we are currently living in. There has been speculation around whether face masks are entirely necessary, however many countries have made face coverings mandatory, but do they really help fight the battle against COVID-19?
“A key point is that the countries that flattened the curve used masks in public,” says Chris Kenyon, head of the sexually transmitted diseases unit at The Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, who has examined whether face masks may have played a role in limiting the spread of Covid-19 in certain countries. “These were mostly Asian countries. For some reason, until very recently European experts – Czechia (Czech Republic) excluded – were unable to learn from what worked in Asia.”
The virus can spread through a single droplet, simply by speaking or breathing. We spray thousands of droplets that are not seen by the naked eye whenever we speak, cough, sneeze or breathe heavily. The virus can survive in these droplets and be passed onto members of the public, by them either breathing them in, or picking them up by touching objects they have settled on and then ingesting them.
Face masks significantly reduce the distance that these droplets can travel. They provide a barrier between the mouth and nose and outside world, catching the droplets and stopping them spreading to other people around you. If people are a carrier of the virus and are asymptomatic, meaning they are infected with the virus but show no symptoms, they may inadvertently spread it merely by speaking in public places. By wearing a mask, they are limiting the spread of the droplets and therefore helping to stop the spread of the virus.
But what face coverings work?
A face covering of any kind is effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Any material covering the face helps stop the spread of droplets from things such as breathing, speaking, coughing and sneezing. This means that when in places where social distancing cannot be fully observed, such as on public transport or in shops, people who have COVID but who are asymptomatic are much less likely to infect others as their droplets are caught by the face covering. Therefore, fabric face coverings are just as effective as surgical masks. A double layer fabric mask is great as it is still breathable, but is thick enough to significantly reduce the distance travelled by droplets.
At Bags of Ethics we have developed a range of reusable face coverings that are beneficial to both people and planet. They are washable, reusable, and contain no single-use plastic. We have developed them in conjunction with British and European scientists, who have advised us and stipulated the specific requirements needed to help effectively stop the spread of COVID-19. To see the range, visit https://bagsofethics.org/shop/