When will we stop wearing face masks?


This week, HuffPost UK reader Allison asked: “When will the face mask be a thing of the past?”

Wearing face masks in shops, hair salons or on public transport has become a second nature for many of us in recent months. But with the Kovid-19 cases growing in the UK, some experts believe that we should wear them even more often, such as when we go home to a loved one.

The question is: will we ever stop wearing face masks? Or should we accept that they are already part of life? Sadly, none of us have a crystal ball with an answer, but we asked the experts for their best predictions.

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Arpana Verma is a professor of public health and epidemiology at the University of Manchester, she says can do Imagine a time where a face mask is not needed – but it is hard to apply timescales.

“I hope we return at a time when the level of coronovirus will be detected.” “But, like some cultures where they have repeated outbreaks of coronovirus, wearing masks is ideal for some.”

A consultant virologist and professor in the Department of Respiratory Sciences at the University of Leicester, Drs. Julian Tang, Agreed Mask won’t be here forever, but it’s likely to be a long haul.

“Like the 2009 pandemic flu virus, I think SARS-CoV-2 [the term for the virus that causes Covid-19] Gradually, it will become more human-adapted, ”he explains. “Hence more communicable, less lethal, which will gradually increase our overall herd immunity. This may reduce the need for masks by excluding specific elderly / vulnerable groups. ”

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Swarm immunity occurs when a large percentage of the population develops immunity to the virus, making it harder for the virus to spread. SARS-CoV-2 mutates more slowly than the flu, Drs. Tang connects, so the path to herd immunity is likely to be longer.

“Of course, if an effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is found and widely used, it will increase overall herd immunity very quickly to further limit the spread of the virus,” he says.

There has been much discussion as to when a vaccine will be available at Christmas and whether life will “return to normal”. Pro. Verma believes that the time period for vaccines – and a possible end to face masks – will be too long.

“I think spring 2021 will be a time of hope when we have a lot more evidence and effective [solutions], “She says.

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But even with a vaccine, Drs. Tang warns that it may take a long time to establish herd immunity.

“With increasing rates of SARS-CoV-2 spreading globally through susceptible populations – with sporadic interventions of some variable effectiveness – without a vaccine, it would take five to 10 years to naturally reach herd immunity levels. Can, ”he says. .

“With an effective and widely accessible vaccine – again, depending on how quickly it develops within specific populations, with the development of the virus combining a more communicable, less lethal form and naturally acquired immunity. Can be distributed and administered. ” five years.”

One challenge is that scientists still have no idea how long immunity lasts, whether it is achieved naturally or via vaccines.

Dr. “The irony is that the more effective infection control interventions (masking, social disturbances, lockdowns, etc.) are, the longer they may have to stop,” says Tang.

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So, are we doomed to wear masks for the next decade? Not necessary, Dr. Tang says. Governments may decide to implement the “mask on, mask off” approach by reacting to the level of the local virus. This would at least limit the environmental waste generated by the mask.

“There are very few cases of Kovid-19 per million people in some countries like New Zealand, so you could argue that masks below a certain Kovid-19 threshold incidence / prevalence rate are not required,” he says.

“But you will need a very efficient, effective, coordinated and rapid testing / reporting system to keep these events updated and accurate, so that it is decided that universal masking is again needed.”

He says such a program would not be “easy or cheap to set up or maintain”, and would require regular testing of people coming to the hospital as well as within the community.

In short: You will never be able to open your mask anytime soon. Our best hope lies in an effective vaccine, enhanced by an efficient track and trace system. For now, invest in an attractive, reusable mask that affects your life – and the environment – as little as possible.

Experts are still learning about Kovid-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but guidance could change as scientists learn more about the virus. To keep up to date with health advice and matters in your area, visit gov.uk/coronavirus And nhs.uk.

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This article has originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.