More than five months after lockdown the UK government finally understand the importance of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – 11 September 2020

 
A Blog by Dr David J Flavell PhD FRCPath & Dr Sopsamorn (Bee) Flavell BSc PhD
Scientific Directors of Leukaemia Busters

A Trinity of Mitigation Measures

On the 12th July we came up with a new trinity for the mitigation for the spread of COVID-19 infections in the community that went like this:-

Wash Hands : Mask Up : Socially Distance

It’s therefore very satisfying that after almost two months the UK government have seen fit to adopt a very similar slogan that goes, Hands – Face – Space, to the one we devised earlier and promote it wholeheartedly to the general public. But it has all come far too late and has allowed the R value to increase above 1 in several places around the UK. If you remember our previous blogs from earlier in the year it was an uphill struggle to make the government even consider the use of face coverings which they dismissed for lack of sufficient scientific evidence as a means for reducing the spread of infection when many of us knew full well that they were likely to make a major contribution to preventing the person to person transmission of COVID-19.

After all the frustration we (and others) encountered in attempting to persuade government to make face coverings  mandatory in public settings it is gratifying to see this has now been adopted, with the vast majority of sensible people more than willing to tolerate a little inconvenience to play their part in helping reduce infection rates. Sadly there is still a minority of individuals who view mandatory face mask use as an infringement of their civil liberties and we would say to these irresponsible, self-centred people, go tell that to those who have already lost or might lose their lives to COVID-19 in the future. Remember this might include you, your partner, your children, your mother, your father. How might they view your intransigent unwillingness to play your part?

If  a Trinity of Mitigation is to be effective then there has to be universal acceptance and implementation of measures across the board with everyone playing their part. That’s the only way it will work with any degree of certainty. Face covering use has slowly crept in, on slow to implement government actions, firstly on public transport then more recently in shops. But it needs to go further.

Lack of clarity and confusion: More urgent action needed

There are still anomalies and gaps in the way things are presently organised that don’t make any scientific sense. Why for instance are shop workers exempted from having to wear face coverings when they are front facing to customers likewise children and their teachers in schools. Then there is the misguided belief that wearing only a face visor will give protection when it won’t unless used in combination with a face covering. Why do we often see couples, one wearing a face mask whilst the other does not? Do they not understand that the one not wearing a mask may contract COVID-19 and then transmit it to the other? A big educational drive is needed to make such matters crystal clear to all.

These types of things need to be addressed and action taken urgently if we are to avoid an exponential climb in cases of infection rising to the same or even worse levels that were seen at the height of the epidemic earlier this year. As we write the resurgent infection rate is already climbing rapidly almost certainly because of the laxity shown by some following the easing of lockdown. We are beginning to experience the consequences of a failure to socially distance, to use face coverings at mass gatherings and probably to wash hands regularly.

Will our government distribute free reuseable masks to all?

Let’s not lose sight of the incontrovertible fact that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted from individual to individual through the air we breathe and that the virus will respect nobody, we’re all equally vulnerable to catching it if we meet an infected individual and fail to take the necessary avoidance measures, face coverings being one of the most important.  We already know the things that need to be done to avoid this so let’s do them and hope that our government will extend compulsory face mask use to additional public settings including schools and out of doors generally and maybe even fund the distribution of free face masks to all. This would be a small price to pay to avoid a repeat performance of a full lockdown. None of us want that thrust on us again.

Here then is a list with links to all our previous blogs on face mask use dating from the 3rd April to the present day:

To read our other blogs click here.

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