Coronavirus advice: Wearing face masks offers ‘negligible’ protection from COVID-19

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has infected more than 82,000 people around the globe despite efforts to curb the epidemic. Italy has seen a surge in recent days alongside South Korea and the UK, where two new cases were confirmed on Thursday.

Health experts have now warned not to rely solely on face masks, which can lull people into a false sense of security.

Professor Krzysztof Korzeniewski from the Department of Epidemiology and Tropical Medicine of the Military Medical Institute in Poland said the protective benefits offered by face masks are “negligible”.

He told the Polish Press Agency (PAP): “Masks primarily serve to protect infected people, so that they do not pose a danger to their environment.

“Worn by uninfected individuals, they are more effective for the wearer’s state of mind than having an epidemiological significance.

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“Most commonly used masks, for example in healthcare, have such large pores that their effectiveness in blocking microorganisms emerging from the exhaled air is negligible.”

The news comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced face masks will not prevent infection.

The WHO said: “Use a mask only if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing), have suspected COVID-19 infection with mild symptoms, or are caring for someone with suspected COVID-19 infection.

“A suspected COVID-19 infection is linked to travel in areas where cases have been reported or close contact with someone who has travelled in these areas and has become ill.”

The most effective way to protect yourself from catching the coronavirus is to maintain good personal hygiene and cough etiquette.

They are more effective for the wearer’s state of mind

Professor Krzysztof Korzeniewski

The WHO said you need to frequently and thoroughly wash your hands under running soap and water.

When coughing or sneezing, do so into the bend of your elbow or a tissue rather than your hands.

You should also maintain a distance of at least three feet (one meter) from people when coughing or sneezing.

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However, if you chose to wear a face mask or are showing symptoms, health experts recommend some tips to avoid an infection.

You should avoid at all costs touching the face mask when it is in use.

If you end up touching it, immediately wash your hands with water and soap, or an alcohol-based sanitiser.

You should also avoid touching your eyes and nose areas with your hands.

If your face mask feels damp, immediately replace it with a new one and dispose of it in a secure container.

Avoid touching the front part of the mask and wash your hands once it is disposed of.

Dr Agnieszka Chojecka from the National Institute of Hygiene in Poland recommends using face masks with an FFP3 filter.

She said: “By wearing a mask in the danger zone, we minimise the risk of infection but it is important to adhere to the expiration dates because microorganisms accumulate on the filters and they can also be a source of infection.”

Coronaviruses measure between 60 and 140 nanometers and are carried on tiny droplets of bodily fluids.

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