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Six Reasons Kiwis Should Be Wearing Masks In The Fight Against Covid-19

Our Government has been encouraging us to act responsibly and as if we have Covid-19. And the World Health Organisation (WHO) has begun recommending everyone who is sick wears a mask. With growing evidence of asymptomatic Covid-19 spread, a rapidly growing New Zealand group insists it’s prudent for all New Zealanders to be wearing masks as part of our arsenal.

Started just over two weeks ago by Methven GPs Dr Sophie Febery and Dr Gayle O’Duffy, the #Masks4All NZ facebook page had more than 1000 followers within days. Followers have begun actively making homemade masks during lockdown and proactively sharing these within their communities. Essential services such as pharmacies and supermarkets, as well as vulnerable citizens have been benefiting from the generosity and concern of fellow kiwis.

Other Doctors have now joined the call for universal mask wearing. Dr Ling Ansell and Dr Zuzana Wheeler have started a local mask making and distribution group in Dunedin, while Doctor Shengyang Liao from Waikato Hospital has been advocating for universal mask use after two nurses from his ward became infected with Covid-19 and 80 staff members had to be stood down.

6 Reasons Kiwis should be wearing masks

1. Up to 80% of all Covid-19 Infected People have mild or no symptoms

2. Covid infected droplets can travel further than initially thought

3. Masks do reduce the number of coronavirus infected droplets and aerosols coming from infected people

4. To prevent another lockdown

5. To help when re-starting the economy

6. To reduce the severity of Covid-19 if infected

Looking at each reason in more detail:

1. Up to 80% of all Covid-19 infected people have very mild or no symptoms. 
There is growing evidence of asymptomatic spread – that is, even if you don’t have symptoms you can still pass the virus on to others. In fact, one study showed that during a two week period in January in Wuhan, 40-80% of infections came from “undocumented cases”. The authors state: “This high proportion of undocumented infections, many of whom were likely not severely symptomatic, appears to have facilitated the rapid spread of the virus throughout China.”

Jeremy Howard, San Francisco Research Scientist and founder of the International Masks4all movement says: “The time you’re most infectious is in the early days, when almost nobody has symptoms. So, the WHO’s own advice, which is wear a mask when you’re sick, really means everybody has to wear a mask!”

2.Covid-infected droplets can travel further than we previously thought. 
Souixsie Wiles has made a new video based on a recent study showing a sneeze can travel 7-8m. We can't just rely on a 1-2m distance from others to be safe from infectious respiratory droplets or aerosols.

3.Masks can block coronavirus containing droplets 
A study published in Nature on 3rd April showed that surgical masks blocked up to 100% of coronavirus (cold) containing respiratory droplets and aerosols. Prof David Heymann CBE, a World Health Organization (WHO) adviser, said, “I think that wearing a mask is equally effective or more effective than distancing.” On 13th April a WHO envoy, David Nabarro, said that wearing masks was likely to become the new norm.

4.To prevent having to go back into lockdown again. Having been pre-prepared through experience with SARS in 2002-2003, mask-wearing countries such as Mongolia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea have managed to flatten their curves and have mostly been able to stay out of lockdown despite having their first cases all imported in late January.

5.To help with re-starting the economy
A Stanford paper published this month stated that “Revising recommendations for expanding the use of masks in public areas is justified and may eventually help the economy with transitioning into the post-COVID world.” The authors also stated: “…wearing masks could give some hope of removing the need to put the economy into the switch on, switch off mode — which would require many businesses to close, open, and close again on short notice”

6. To make the illness milder if you do catch it. 
If you are exposed to someone with the virus it is likely that if you are wearing a mask (and especially if they are also wearing a mask) your illness will be milder. This is due to a decreased “viral load” at first exposure, with a lower initial viral load allowing your immune system to stay ahead of the viral replication and overcome it faster.

We must use every tool in the belt.
During this lockdown, we won’t have to do anything else to help slow down the spread. But once we are out of lock down, we should be using every tool we can to slow down the spread and prevent us having to go back into lockdown again.

We are not advocating mask-wearing in isolation from other measures. We must combine it with hand hygiene, physical distancing, quarantining, testing, contact tracing and lockdown when necessary. We also need to combine widespread mask use with a public campaign on their safe use and hygiene.

The statement that “we have low community transmission in New Zealand so we don’t need to wear masks” makes no more sense than “we have low rates of HIV in New Zealand so we don’t need to worry about condoms”.

Waiting for evidence to become “clear” prior to recommending mask use is like waiting for evidence that a parachute works prior to using one when escaping a falling plane. When dealing with such a fast moving enemy, we have to act on the incomplete but growing evidence we have so far. We have made amazing progress by early and aggressive lockdown and closing the borders, let’s not drop the ball now.

© Scoop Media

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