We should all be wearing face masks right now

Experts are urging people to keep wearing them in public

KARACHI: Pakistan just surpassed China, the original epicenter of the virus, in terms of Covid19 cases. Currently, Pakistan stands at the 17th spot, globally, which is why the need to flatten the curve and protect ourselves is higher than ever.

Face masks, gloves and hand sanitizers have become the need of the hour, with health experts urging everyone to make sure that they are properly protected.

In Pakistan, however, these instructions are not being followed. In fact, even Prime Minister Imran Khan is often seen without a face mask in public, and he receives a lot of criticism for it also.

So exactly how important are face masks right now? 

According to BBC, countries that have deployed a widespread use of the masks have managed to slow the spread of the illness. “A key point is that the countries that flattened the curve used masks in public,” says Chris Kenyon, head of the sexually transmitted diseases unit at The Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, who has examined whether face masks may have played a role in limiting the spread of Covid-19 in certain countries.

An important reason behind wearing face masks in public is due to the fact that there are many asymptomatic carriers who can spread the disease to others without knowing. BBC states that anywhere from 6% to almost 18% of those infected can carry the virus without developing any apparent symptoms.

Ben Cowling, head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong, says that “face masks could help to reduce transmission in the community particularly if used in public transport and crowded areas,”

He recently published a study with his colleagues and it found that a standard surgical face mask was enough to considerably reduce the amount of virus escaping in the breath and coughs of people infected with different respiratory viruses.

Protecting others

Healthline spoke to Keane Veran, co-founder and chief executive officer of Oura, a maker of face masks to find out how important masks are right now. “Masks should be worn anytime you are in public or people are nearby. Masks act as a physical barrier to protect you and others from viral and bacterial particulates. Many people unknowingly infect others by going out and spreading germs by coughing or touching others,” he said. “You can go out in public areas without a mask if there is no one nearby. Otherwise, regardless if it’s close quarters or spaced out, you should wear a mask with others around. This is precaution and courtesy to yourself and those nearby you.”

Read: We debunk some Coronavirus myths that you should not fall for

However, it is important to understand that a cloth mask won’t really protect you from inhaling virus particles. Rodney Rohde, PhD, chair of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program and associate dean for research at the College of Health Professions at Texas State University, says that “The coronavirus will go right through cloth and bandanas… but it will provide a bit of respiratory protection, which can reduce depositing of droplets of the virus on surfaces and to people near you.”

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