Face masks

By April 5, 2020Science, Society

Yesterday, I saw someone on television stating that out in public, people do not need to wear face marks, something that has been in the media for some time1. This presumably was based on the advice that the coronavirus is only transmissible from person to person over short distances through breathing in droplets spread by coughing or sneezing. This is presumably also the reason behind the 1.5 metre ‘social distancing’ rule.  However, now there is evidence that coronavirus may spread by aerosol as well. This is transmission not just by coughed or sneezed droplets, but simply by exhaled air. While the evidence is not conclusive, the degree of evidence required to make it so may take months or years and cost many lives. Aerosol scientist Lidia Morawska from the Queensland University of Technology said “In the mind of scientists working on this, there’s absolutely no doubt that the virus spreads in the air. This is a no-brainer.”2

There is increasing evidence that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is a significant under-reporting of the actual number, partly because as many as 50% of cases may be asymptomatic3. In addition, if it is transmitted by aerosol, that adds an increased risk even with social distancing, it would therefore be wise to wear a mask out in public. Even more importantly, if you are infected and are asymptomatic, and if transmission by aerosol is happening, then a mask should be mandatory, so you minimise the risk of infecting others. If you do infect others, they may die. Even though transmission by aerosol has not been conclusively demonstrated, the precautionary principle should operate here, by assuming that aerosol transmission does happen. Therefore, if you want to decrease your risk as much as possible, and the risk to those you see, wear a facemask when out in public.

Sources

  1. https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2020-03-25/coronavirus-covid-19-face-mask-surgical-mask-protection/12088314
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00974-w?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=6b864133d1-briefing-dy-20200403&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-6b864133d1-44945025
  3. http://www.blotreport.com/2020/04/04/the-percentage-of-spin/

10 Comments

  • I see only today that so called Australian health experts are being reported to advise that face masks are not recommended to be worn by the general public.

    The excuse given is that they are in “Short Supply”.

    Huh! how come short supply has anything to do with a person’s attempt to protect him or her self from a potential death sentence?

    So by the fact that I have one, I shouldn’t wear it?

    Such so called experts, while trolling though all their documentations, completely throw common sense out the window.

  • Arthur Baker says:

    The eternal question: where can I buy a mask? Until I know the answer to that, a simple trip to the supermarket becomes a hazardous expedition which could eventually cause my death (I’m 72 and not in perfect health by any means).

    • admin says:

      Arthur,
      If you have family or friends who can buy groceries etc. for you, get them to do so and leave the purchases on your front doorstep and ring your doorbell as they walk away. Our local pharmacy does deliveries with an online system, as my partner is on a couple of medications.

  • Arthur Baker says:

    Right. Owing to the seemingly permanent unavailability of a mask, I have found a scarf to wrap around my nose and gob. It started its life as a football scarf, and will now be pressed into service as a life-preserving defence against a filthy infection. Part of the word “ENGLAND” in very large capital letters will be visible across my face. That should pee enough Aussies off sufficiently to make them take steps to avoid me in the supermarket tomorrow morning. The facial treatment will be completed by the biggest pair of sunglasses I own. In a bank, security would turn me away. Let’s see how I go at Woollies Warringah Mall.

    “I’m going outside, and I could be some time.”

    Barmy, Barmy Army, la la la la laaa la laaa. Now which aisle did you say the Earl Grey teabags were in?

    • admin says:

      Arthur,
      Probably a good second choice; a big thick pommy football scarf. Chortle! We organise ourselves so that we only have to shop once a week at most. The good thing is, we have enough plonk, chocolate and coffee to last us about a month!

      • Arthur Baker says:

        With plonk, chocolate and coffee, you’ve covered three of the four major food groups, the only one missing being pizza. Might have to make your own in that group.

        Well, went to Woollies this morning, and can report Mission Accomplished! Shoppers fleeing from the store en masse, yelling “Pommie germs! Pommie Germs!”, seemingly oblivious to coronavirus, for once. 250 bucks later, stowed the loot in my car boot and took off the disguise. That’ll do us for best part of a fortnight. Tremendous. My Aussie brother-in-law will be outraged when I tell him. And that alone makes it worth the effort. Barmy, Barmy Army …

        • admin says:

          Arthur,
          Chortle! Might have to work on the pizza angle! Have to go to the supermarket tomorrow so might get some pizza bases, if any are left. Keep safe.

    • admin says:

      Gordon,
      I suspected that was why the government was telling people that masks were not necessary; simply because we don’t have enough of them, and the people that really need them are those dealing with COVID-19 cases. As I said elsewhere, we have a couple left over from the bushfire smoke earlier in the year. We wear them.

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