Shuo Feng, Chen Shen, Nan Xia, Wei Song, Mengzhen Fan, Benjamin J Cowling
Published: March 20, 2020
there is an essential distinction between absence of evidence and evidence of absence. Evidence that face masks can provide effective protection against respiratory infections in the community is scarce, as acknowledged in recommendations from the UK and Germany. However, face masks are widely used by medical workers as part of droplet precautions when caring for patients with respiratory infections. It would be reasonable to suggest vulnerable individuals avoid crowded areas and use surgical face masks rationally when exposed to high-risk areas. As evidence suggests COVID-19 could be transmitted before symptom onset, community transmission might be reduced if everyone, including people who have been infected but are asymptomatic and contagious, wear face masks.
Consideration should also be given to variations in societal and cultural paradigms of mask usage. The contrast between face mask use as hygienic practice (ie, in many Asian countries) or as something only people who are unwell do (ie, in European and North American countries) has induced stigmatisation and racial aggravations, for which further public education is needed. One advantage of universal use of face masks is that it prevents discrimination of individuals who wear masks when unwell because everybody is wearing a mask.
It is time for governments and public health agencies to make rational recommendations on appropriate face mask use to complement their recommendations on other preventive measures, such as hand hygiene. WHO currently recommends that people should wear face masks if they have respiratory symptoms or if they are caring for somebody with symptoms. Perhaps it would also be rational to recommend that people in quarantine wear face masks if they need to leave home for any reason, to prevent potential asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission. In addition, vulnerable populations, such as older adults and those with underlying medical conditions, should wear face masks if available. Universal use of face masks could be considered if supplies permit. In parallel, urgent research on the duration of protection of face masks, the measures to prolong life of disposable masks, and the invention on reusable masks should be encouraged. Taiwan had the foresight to create a large stockpile of face masks; other countries or regions might now conside`r this as part of future pandemic plans.
The Lancet – DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30134-X
p.s.: heute – Zahl der Coronavirus-Infektionen – Vergleich zwischen Italien und Deutschland https://twitter.com/OlafGersemann/status/1244150775850336261/photo/1