The pros and cons of lockdown restrictions are debated in the media daily. Surging unemployment, a crippling economy, and vocal protesters aggrieved by the limitation of freedoms on the one hand and on the other, local outbreaks that remind us of the consequences of losing control of this novel virus.
When Auckland had to go back into Level 3 lockdown last month, many businesses took a huge hit, if only there was a way to prevent a similar lockdown from happening again?
There is, it’s called wearing a face covering, and they work.
A British comedian’s plea to wear masks became a social media sensation, offering blunt commentary on why face coverings are needed to protect against the Coronavirus.
“Yes, they’re uncomfortable. Yes, they steam your glasses up. Yes, they chafe your ears and give you spots on your chin,” said Jonathan Pie, alter ego of comic Tom Walker.
“I’ll tell you what’s worse, though: a f**king ventilator tube down your gullet.”
Need some proof? Besides the huge amount of scientific evidence from multiple sources (including an experiment published in the New England Journal of Medicine which, using high-speed video, found that hundreds of droplets ranging from 20 to 500 micrometres were generated when saying a simple phrase, but that nearly all these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered by a cloth), there is also anecdotal evidence emerging from around the world.
Two dozen patrons of a Starbucks cafe in Seoul were infected in August after a person with COVID-19 visited; none of the four mask-wearing employees was infected. In America there was an outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, 81 percent of crew not wearing masks were infected versus 56 percent of those wearing masks.
In February, 41 healthcare workers in a Singapore hospital were exposed (for at least 10 minutes at less than two metres distance) to an intubated patient having procedures known to be at very high risk of causing the spread of COVID-19 droplets (before the patient was diagnosed with COVID-19). They all wore masks, mostly standard surgical masks, and none were infected.
If you look at crowded Asian urban environments, you see that masks work in public too. Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, where masks in public are near-universal, deaths from COVID-19 have been much lower than countries where mask-wearing is taken less seriously, plus society and businesses have remained more open.
Do masks offer 100 percent protection? No, but they do offer some protection, and if we all use them, together with social distancing and handwashing, we can get this virus under control and have a quicker return to some semblance of normality – albeit a slightly altered normality - that the economy needs to recover.
In short: Help save a business and someone a job, wear a mask.