Mask wearing ‘cuts risk of catching Covid by up to 225 times and more effective than social distancing’

·2-min read
Shoppers wear masks in Canterbury, Kent (PA Wire)
Shoppers wear masks in Canterbury, Kent (PA Wire)

Wearing a face covering could lower the risk of catching Covid by up to 225 times, a new study has found.

The latest research by a team of German and US experts concludes that wearing a face covering offers “enormously high” protection and is more effective than social distancing.

It found a 90 per cent chance of catching Covid if you stand across from an infected person for five minutes and neither of you wear a mask, even with a gap of three metres.

However it would take 30 minutes for the risk to be that high if someone was to wear a surgical mask, even if it does not fit “perfectly” on the face.

Experts from the universities of Göttingen and Cornell who did the study said their finding “makes social distancing less important”.

Masks were last week made compulsory in England again on public transport and in shops in response to the highly infectious Omicron variant, which was first identified in South Africa.

The latest paper, published in the journal PNAS, measured the size and amount of respiratory particles that come out of people’s mouths with various masks on.

Scientists ran the results through a mathematical model to calculate the risk of a person inhaling them from various distances and lengths of exposure.

Eberhard Bodenschatz, lead author of the latest study and director of the Max Plank Institute at Göttingen, said: “In our study we found that the risk of infection without wearing masks is enormously high after only a few minutes, even at a distance of three metres, if the infected persons have the high viral load of the delta variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

“We would not have thought that at a distance of several metres it would take so little time for the infectious dose to be absorbed from the breath of a virus carrier.”

The academic paper comes after a review of six real-world studies on masks, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), concluded that widespread use can cut Covid rates by up to 53 per cent.

By comparison, social distancing on its own was estimated to reduce transmission by just a quarter.

The review involving nearly 400,000 total participants and was carried out by Monash University researchers in Australia and the University of Edinburgh.

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