Do Face Masks protect you?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) originally said that healthy people only needed to wear a mask if they were taking care of a person with COVID-19. But it has now updated its advice on face masks, saying that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks in situations where social distancing isn’t possible.
Evidence suggests that wearing a face-covering does not protect you. However, if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with. Face coverings do not replace social distancing and hand washing, which remain the key ways to prevent the virus from spreading. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, and/or high temperature, and/or loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste – anosmia), you and your household must isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this.
A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.
Public Health England has said previously “Face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour in order for them to be effective”.
Uptake in the UK is still low compared with other countries. The latest polling from YouGov suggests that 38% of Brits are wearing a face mask when out in public, compared with 88% in Spain, 83% in China, 83% in Italy and 73% in the US.