A World Health Organization funded study published this week in the Lancet found that masks, physical distancing and eye protection offer substantial reduction in the spread of COVID-19.
The study cautioned that even when used effectively and in combination, none of the interventions will completely prevent the spread of the virus. But the study’s authors offer some optimism the virus can be significantly slowed sans a vaccine.
Keeping a distance of 1 meter in both healthcare and community settings reduced the risk of infection by 82 percent, according the research authored by a group of six infectious disease experts. Every additional meter of separation more than doubled the relative protection.
“This evidence is important to support community physical distancing guidelines and shows risk reduction is feasible by physical distancing,” the study said. “Moreover, this finding can inform lifting of societal restrictions and safer ways of gathering in the community.”
The study found that infectious droplets can travel up to 8 feet, and can stay in the air for hours.
The use of masks and respirators with those infected with the virus reduced the risk of spreading the infection by 85%. The authors analyzed data that showed that N95 respirators in healthcare settings were up to 96% effective. Other masks were found to be 77% effective.
Dr. Derek Chu from McMaster University, and co-author of the study, found that the most effective homemade masks should be ones that are water-resistant, have multiple layers, and are a good facial fit.
The study also suggests that wearing eye protection resulted in a 78% reduction in infection; infection via the ocular route might occur by aerosol transmission or self-inoculation the study said. This point was one the researchers had less confidence in, and further data is needed to draw a conclusion.
To read the full study, click here.