The science is clear: Masks help stop the spread of coronavirus!

Mario Tantalo

Mario Tantalo

Wearing masks in public is something new for people in the EU, and many feel uncomfortable or stupid. Do you know that feeling? I surely do!

I remember my first day when I went with the mask to a grocery store. It wasn’t enjoyable! But later, I got used to wearing a mask, and now I can barely notice it. The only problem I’ve had was foggy glasses, and a few days ago, I removed that too with a protection mask KN95, which is glasses friendly.

 

No matter how much we like or dislike wearing protection masks, the fact it, that masks save people’s life, even though some politicians or governments think differently. But the science is clear! Numerous studies suggest that if 80% of people wear a protective mask in public, then coronavirus could be stopped. »Until a vaccine or a cure for coronavirus is discovered, protection masks might be the most crucial tool we currently have to fight the pandemic.« says Jeremy Howard, the scientist from the University of San Francisco. There is a consensus among virologists and other virus experts that coronavirus is transmitted by droplets from a person’s mouth. That doesn’t mean only by sneezing and coughing, but also by casual talking.

Coronavirus is transmitted by droplets from a person's mouth

Is casual bandana or surgery mask alone enough?

If you wear 3ply surgical mask, you need to keep a social distance.

The answer is no. The researchers from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) made a test on how effective the masks are against droplets from our mouth. The results showed that almost 100% if we wear a suitable mask or combine it with social distance. Casual bandana or 3ply surgical mask can stop larger droplets, but cannot stop “micro-droplets” smaller than 5 microns that can also contain some viral virus particles. Even though you wear classic 3ply surgery masks, those particles fall out of the air within 1.5 meters and stay there for about 10 minutes. So, if you wear 3ply surgical mask, you need to keep a social distance. The only masks that can protect us from micro-droplets without social distance are FFP2 type and FFP3 type masks.

The most common FFP2 type masks are known as KN95 protection masks. They give at least 95% protection and are much cheaper than FFP3 type masks. On the other hand, FFP3 masks provide at least 99% protection but are much more expensive. However, 

some KN95 protection masks on the market offer 98% protection and keep the price level of FFP2 type masks.  

Why is social distance not effective?

The answer is because we cannot keep it. In media, we could read that 1,5-meter distance is enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus. According to the US NIH research that is not precisely true, because »micro-droplets« can fall out of the air within 5 meters for those not wearing masks. So, If you do not wear a mask, you need to keep a 5-meter social distance to other people to prevent »micro-droplets« from going into your mouth or nose. On paper 5-meter social distance could be done, but in reality, even 1,5 m distance is hard to keep. Especially now, when many countries in the EU are releasing strict measures, and many restaurants, bars, and other services are open again.   

Should only medical staff and people with symptoms wear a mask?

The answer is no, even though we could read those statements from some politicians in media or even World Health Organisation. Sure, if only people with symptoms would have infected others, then only people with symptoms would need to wear masks. But according to four recent studies, we can say this approach is a false economy, because nearly half of the patients have been infected by people who did not themselves have symptoms. People without symptoms who don’t know they are sick are responsible for around half of the transmission of the virus. We should all wear masks. Not just because we want to protect ourselves, but because we want to protect others as well. And because we want to avoid second wave!

Are all masks the same quality?

The answer is no. As said, the only masks, which can effectively protect us from micro-droplets without social distance, are FFP2 type and FFP3 type masks. The best money-value mask is KN95, which is FFP2 mask, and is the most popular mask for everyday use, besides traditional surgical mask. KN95 mask gives very high, between 95% and 98% protection, we can wear it longer time, and can filter 2.5 microns »micro-droplets« in the air. But there are also differences between KN95 masks.

 

I talked with Robert Kiserlovski from Firstline Global Europa, who are specialists for protective equipment, and he summed up the key points about the best KN95 mask.

What do you need to know when buying a KN95 mask?

  • the mask must have a CE certificate issued by the competent authority in the EU. The majority of KN95 masks on the market have a CE certificate issued by ECM, which is not notified body to issue a CE certificate for personal protection equipment. The most prominent authority for PPE in the EU is the British Standard Institute (BSI). If the KN95 masks have CE certificate issued by BSI, they fulfill high-quality EU standards and are safe to use,
  • the mask must have a test certificate, where you can see how high protection the mask provides or how quality the filter is in the mask,
  • The mask must have printed standard on the mask (for example EN149:2001 + A1 2009 + type FFP2),
  • Elastic loops can be very uncomfortable while wearing the mask. Especially for a longer period (one of the advantages of KN95 mask is that you can wear them longer than 3ply surgical mask), so find the mask without elastic loops,
  • If you wear glasses, then you need a mask that won't cause foggy lenses. Most high-quality KN95 masks with adjustable nose bridge are glasses friendly.
If the KN95 masks have CE certificate issued by BSI, they fulfill high-quality EU standards and are safe to use.

The current pandemic situation has turned our lives bottom up. But that is how it is, and we have to adapt to it. We need to change our habits and our lifestyle. We have to behave responsibly, we have to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus. Better we will adapt now, less we will sacrifice in the future – the weaker will be a second or third wave, and fewer people will die. We can beat this virus together. We should all wear masks.

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