Harry Rakowski: Do we really still need to wear masks?
During the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were no vaccines or effective antiviral drugs, wearing a mask was thought to provide barrier protection against viral contact and thus infection. The virus and the risks associated with it have since greatly evolved. Is it now time to reconsider the need for routine masking?
For many, the wearing of masks was considered to be a politicized response that restricted an individual’s freedom of choice. The controversy was also fuelled by initial ambiguity over the benefits of masks, as masks were never recommended for previous viral outbreaks. They were also in short supply early in the COVID-19 pandemic and their use was limited to those in direct contact with infected people. Initial advice was thus that masks should be restricted to health-care workers and those who had been infected.
Masks are thought to provide barrier protection against the two primary methods of viral transmission, namely droplets and aerosols. Droplets are larger particles, about 1/3 the size of a human hair, and are expelled through sneezing or coughing or even breathing. Aerosols are a finer mist, with particles the size of about 1/100th of a human hair.
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