Since mid-March, Americans have been advised to social distance and wear face masks while in public to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
The research from Cambridge and Greenwich Universities in the United Kingdom found that lockdowns alone wouldn’t prevent the resurgence of the novel virus. But if they were combined with universal use of face masks then another outbreak may be avoided.
"If widespread facemask use by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and re-opening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine,” said Richard Stutt, one of the lead researchers of the Cambridge study.
The masks do not even need to be N95 respirators masks or other types of medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Even homemade masks with limited effectiveness can dramatically reduce transmission rates if worn by enough people, regardless of whether they show symptoms,” researchers said in a statement.
Since COVID-19 is a new disease, the researchers used mathematical models taking into account population-levels, different scenarios of mask adoption combined with periods of lockdown.
Their findings suggest wearing masks whenever in public is twice as effective in stopping the spread of the virus than only wearing them only once symptoms occur.
While getting everyone to wear a mask is highly unlikely, researchers found that if at least 50% of individuals continued to cover up their nose and mouth it would help flatten the curve until a vaccine is found, reported CNBC.
Even though the study was theoretical and not experimental, the researchers stressed masks are a key prevention measure.
“Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public,” added Stutt.