We are used to seeing people of Asian descent wearing masks, assuming its to protect them from us but it is actually the other way round, since the SARS outbreak in 2002 to 2004 there has been a significant increase in masks worn. In the UK we associate masks such as the ones we are being offered now with criminal activities so there is no wonder there is such a negative reaction from some people. Standing in the queue at the supermarket with my mask on I was avoided like I had the plague, the only thing I’ve found that is more effective is wearing my scarf like a hijab because it was too hot, the inherent racism in my local town is rife.
The inherent problem at the moment is that no one can agree on the type of masks and with the government letting slip the codes for the virology masks which is all well and good but these are reserved for medics not for the average person in the street to wear to the supermarket, they say that the N95s will be sufficient but as the British Medical Journal has already observed its like wearing a condom, it will never be 100% effective. People also dont seem to understand that they must be washed or disposed of immediately after use, disposable gloves should only be used once so the shop workers who wear them for each customer are literally just turning their hands in to virus vehicles, much like wearing underwear on your head its not going to protect you from anything and put everyone else at risk of transferring the virus to even more people. In response to the question are masks effective against the coronavirus disease? The World Health Organisation offers this advice “if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.“
One thing I have observed is that through what I can only assume is ignorance people move away from you if you are wearing a mask which at least assists with social distancing but there are always the people who don’t think and stand 18 inches from you anyway, spacial perception seems to be a concept lost on most people. Having said that shopping in the supermarket I look at the arrows and lines which are apparently 2 metres apart, my friend is just over 2 metres tall and there is no way he would be able to lie down between the lines and only be 7 centimetres too long.
An argument by G D Barr MBChB, FRCS(Ed), Cert. Nat. Sci.(Open), Cert. HE (Open) reminds us that citizens were all supplied with a gas mask during WW2 and although there will be an initial outlay for a mask for each of the general public it would still be a fraction of what the virus is currently costing us, so why are we not? This would at least standardise the protection as at the moment the market is flooded with a host of home made and falsely advertised masks, the falsely advertised are the most dangerous with people believing they are buying the same level of protection as healthcare works are supposed to be receiving.
In conclusion there is little actual clinical evidence which proves the efficacy of masks used by the general public it is largely anecdotal and because they aren’t being used properly it is difficult to gain any concrete evidence. Having said that it is important to be aware of our surroundings and try and protect those more vulnerable than us so I am not saying that you should not wear a mask but it is better to at least educate yourself so you use it properly.