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Face masks have become the norm in many areas of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been confusion, however, regarding how well they work in the fight against the deadly virus. Travellers on flights are now told they have to wear them – but do they work?
A new study has revealed that yes, face masks are indeed vital.
Harvard research has shown that the coverings are an “essential protective measure” against COVID-19.
The insight was shared in the technical bulletin “Face Mask Use in Air Travel,” released this week by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Wearing face masks – and wearing them correctly – is “critical” in the fight against coronavirus, the report said.
It explained that the masks lower “the release of infectious particles into the environment.”
“The use of face masks is critically important throughout the air travel process, from entering the airport for departure to leaving the destination airport, because it diminishes the release of infectious particles into the environment,” the report stated.
Many passengers have railed against wearing face masks.
Delta Air Lines alone has said it has barred more than 300 customers from future flights for not complying with face mask rules.
A recent study found that universal use of surgical masks on planes may reduce infection risk from respiratory particles to less than one percent.
As for cloth masks, cotton fabrics with higher thread counts are the most effective in the battle against COVID-19.
They are between 58 to 83 percent effective in filtering particles of 1 µm aerosolised bacteria.
They are also 49 to 72 percent effective in filtering out particles containing .02 µm aerosolised viruses, according to the report.
“While face masks are imperfect barriers for droplets smaller than their filtration range, they can block larger droplets from entering the environment and evaporating into smaller, dense infectious particles that can be inhaled,” the study explained.
So what kind of masks should you wear?
Passengers should steer clear of masks with valves and vents.
These release unfiltered breath containing respiratory droplets and aerosols into the air.
Furthermore, it’s vital they are worn correctly.
Both the mouth and nose must be covered.
Travellers should also remember to regularly wash their hands with warm soap and water – or antibacterial gel in the absence of water.
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