Our Face Mask Campaign goes to Westminster  – 19th May 2020

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

19th May 2020

Facing Up to Westminster!

  • Face masks, another tool alongside social distancing and personal hygiene measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission rates in the community and get us back to some form of normality more quickly.

  • Our clear message to the government on mandatory face mask use.

  • Face mask supply solutions do exist.

Caroline Nokes MP collects face masks and messages for
delivery to Cabinet, Shadow Cabinet and Health Select
Committee members at Westminster on Wednesday 20th May 2020

Our little campaign that has been attempting to persuade the UK government to adopt a policy of mandatory face mask use in public places was given a big boost today when Romsey and Southampton North MP, Rt Hon Caroline Nokes collected from us masks and messages for delivery directly to Cabinet, Shadow Cabinet and Health Select Committee members at Westminster tomorrow.

This is an extension of our various blogs over the past six weeks that have extolled the use of face masks in the community to help decrease the transmission rate of COVID-19 and keep the R value well below 1. We and many others have made rational carefully considered arguments in favour of face mask use for this very purpose.

We have been blogging about this very issue since the 3rd April and had thoughts about this long before then. See our previous blogs for a balanced sense on the tenet of our argument from the word go.

Initially the government, guided we presume by their scientific advisers, refused to accept the benefits that face masks may offer, stating multiple times that the evidence in support of their use was weak.

Over more recent weeks, most notably after the Prime Minister returned from his near death experience with COVID-19, the government’s position has shifted to where today they advise on the voluntary use of some form of face coverings when on public transport and some other public places.

Clearly this indicates that the government has now changed its mind and considers that there could well be potential benefits in their use. But what they are advising doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. To be effective as an additional tool working alongside social distancing and personal hygiene measures it will be necessary for everyone to adopt face covering in public places, particularly when those places are relatively confined such as on public transport and in shops.

Our argument now is that if face mask use is purely advisory then there will be many people who will refuse to voluntarily wear a face covering with the consequence of undermining any benefits they have to offer for the rest of us. It has to be everyone. We therefore now urge the government to reconsider and make the wearing of face masks or some form of face covering mandatory in public until transmission rates are seen to have fallen below a critical threshold.

Below is an exact transcript of the message we sent today to each Cabinet, Shadow Cabinet and Health Select Committee member that thanks to Caroline Nokes MP will be arriving on each of their desks tomorrow. Let us hope that they have the “common sense” to take the appropriate affirmative action in the face of an ever increasing consensus that now exists amongst the medical community.

Here then is our message to the government. We can only hope that they listen.

Our  Message to the UK Government

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A Message from the Scientific Directors of Leukaemia Busters

Nine Good Reasons for Mandatory Face Mask Use

COVID-19 is a disease transmitted by airborne droplets. To avoid a disastrous second wave of infection as lock down is eased, it is absolutely vital that every means possible is brought to bear on minimising transmission rates in the community. The use of face masks is one tool that can be used alongside social distancing and personal/public hygiene measures which when used together will provide the greatest degree of effectiveness. Here are the nine irrefutable facts in support of this contention:-

  1. COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person principally through airborne virus laden droplets released as a cloud when an infected individual speaks, coughs or sneezes.
  2. Virus laden droplets are also released by pre-symptomatic, asymptomatic or individuals who have given a “false negative” PCR test result, who are freely mixing in the community, oblivious to the fact that they are infected.
  3. Virus laden droplets can remain airborne for several minutes and depending on wind speed/direction, temperature and humidity can travel for 8 metres or more making the currently recommended 2 metre social distancing rule totally inadequate.
  1. The danger from droplet/aerosol infection is greatest in confined spaces such as on public transport, shops, schools, workplaces etc.
  1. Face mask use in influenza epidemics significantly mitigates disease transmission by droplet infection in community settings. The same is also very likely to be true for COVID-19.
  1. Common sense” should make it obvious that a face mask worn by an infected individual will significantly reduce the danger of disease transmission by attenuating the release of a cloud of virus laden droplets into the surrounding environment. 
  1. Face masks would be a valuable additional tool that will make a significant contribution towards reducing the transmission rate of COVID-19 in the community.
  1. In a number of countries where the COVID-19 transmission level has been brought under control, face mask use in the community has been mandatory.
  1. For all the above reasons and for it to work, the government should give a clear instruction on the mandatory use of face masks if they are genuinely serious about keeping the R value below 1, in order to save lives and rescue the country’s economy.

Bear in mind that there are different levels of “common sense” expressed by different individuals. Not everyone in the community will use this common sense in the same way and comply with the request to wear a mask voluntarily. It is these individuals who would compromise everyone else’s efforts and it is for this reason that their use has to be made compulsory and not just voluntary.  One issue the government may have regarding the mandatory use of face masks is their concern about supplying the public without compromising PPE supplies for health workers. We have a solution to this particular issue.

The face mask enclosed here is washable and reusable up to 100 times. It is comprised of three layers of different materials, as detailed in the photograph below. This combination of materials is scientifically proven to have sufficient retentive characteristics to significantly attenuate the release of infectious droplets into the surrounding environment. This together with the better “fit”design, minimizes edge leakage thus providing significant filtration efficiency and protection against aerosol particles to a standard that is as good as any FFP2 mask (see Konda et al (2020) Aerosol Filtration Efficiency of Common Fabrics Used in Respiratory Cloth Masks. ACS Nano DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.0c03252).

Using our own personal resources we have identified a supplier in Thailand and initially imported a limited number of masks for free distribution to this charity’s supporters and others that includes you. This particular supplier is capable of providing 100,000 masks per day or 3 million a month for a modest current cost of seventy pence each. Remember these masks are washable and therefore reusable at least up to 100 times.

There are other suppliers who could be engaged to increase production numbers, including the possibility of our own domestic manufacture in a repurposed factory facility here at home. We passionately believe that face mask use will significantly contribute to reducing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the community to keep the R value well below 1. It will be a small price to pay if this low tech measure contributes significantly towards reducing the risk of a second epidemic wave in the UK.

This mask and message is sent with our best wishes in the hope that the government will promptly take action to order mandatory face mask use before the opportunity is lost and as a consequence we will have to endure a second wave of infection with all the negative connotations that would bring.

Stay safe and well, we look forward to hearing from you and hopefully seeing you wearing this mask.

Dr David J Flavell            Dr Sopsamorn U Flavell

Joint Scientific Directors of Leukaemia Busters

W: www.leukaemiabusters.org.uk   E: contact@leukaemiabusters.org.uk

Enclosed:  One reusable face mask for your personal use.

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Next Blog coming soon: Death & COVID-19. What are the reasons behind the big variations in death rates seen in different countries and between individuals belonging to different ethnic groups?

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