Wearing surgical face masks works Hong Kong University study demonstrates infection rate reduction

London, 18 May 2020 – It’s now proven scientific evidence surgical masks reduce Covid-19 infection rate by over 50%.

“The findings implied to the world and the public is that the effectiveness of mask-wearing against the coronavirus pandemic is huge,” said yesterday Hong Kong University microbiologist Dr Yuen Kwok-yung showing the outcome of the experiment he conducted with his team on 52 hamsters, the rodent with immune system similar to humans.

The experiment is three-folded:

1) two cages put close, one with infected hamsters and the other with healthy ones: infection rate after 10 days: 67% (two thirds of hamsters became infected). ​

2) two cages, one with infected hamsters protected by a surgical mask-like barrier and the healthy ones’ cage with no protections: infection rate falls to 16%.

3) The other way round: two cages, one with infected hamsters with no mask/barriers and the healthy ones’
with mask-like protection: infection rate drops to nearly 35%.

The study concludes that surgical masks significantly reduce airborne COVID contagion, in both cases, when those who are infected and the healthy ones, wear them.

What it’s relevant to stress at this stage is that given coronavirus takes up to two weeks to show, you don’t know if you are positive until you show symptoms or you’re tested. That’s why everybody should wear surgical masks.

While other European countries set new rules on masks (even if this happened late as in France where lack of distribution in care homes caused a spike in deaths) in Britain there’s no advise to population on wearing surgical masks, except to NHS staff who have a priority on use of PPE given the emergency.

This is due to scarce availability of surgical masks, both basic and FFP2/N95. The British government committed businesses such as Burberry, to switch production, but at present surgical masks aren’t either available nor distributed to population. Prices online and in pharmacies attest for a high level of speculation reaching even 10 pound each in pharmacies across UK.

One more deterrent to wearing face masks over summer is the high temperature making it difficult to bear masks for long hours. This goes in addition to the fact in offices and public spaces air conditioning should be banned as a spreading agent for the virus which that way might circulate more easily in enclosed spaces.

Any kind of face mask, included self made, are being advised in UK for instance in London where the Mayor Sadiq Khan launched a campaign with new rules for public safety: though extent of protection of non medical masks is not proved, it’s certainly better wearing one than none. Anyway measures at municipal stage cannot impact the large increase in production of masks the country needs.

A government might well make surgical masks mandatory for population to wear in closed environments like public transports and offices, but this isn’t actually possible as they are not available.

Alternative self made masks might be protective, but there’s no scientific study as yet to establish to what extent a scarf or cut soak might be of use against the deadly SARS-COV-2.