Coronavirus UK: Do surgical face masks work to avoid virus symptoms?

15 April 2020, 16:11

Can face masks protect us against coronavirus? Experts think not
Can face masks protect us against coronavirus? Experts think not. Picture: PA Images

By Zoe Adams

Can face masks prevent coronavirus? With over 93,000 cases now reported in the UK, people are looking for the best ways to protect protect against the symptoms? But do the masks work? Here’s everything you need to know.

With everyone taking precautions to protect themselves from the virus symptoms, it seems surgical face masks are one of the most popular and common methods of protection.

But do face masks really protect people from coronavirus? And can they help keep us away from virus symptoms?

Total number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide reaches two million

Here’s everything you need to know about how effective they really are:

Coronavirus in the UK has caused a national shortage of face masks
Coronavirus in the UK has caused a national shortage of face masks. Picture: PA Images

Can surgical face masks protect us from coronavirus?

Those worried about the virus have been rushing to buy face masks with sellers like Boots and Amazon selling out - but do they work?

The UK government has said it is keeping the decision to formally recommend the wearing of face masks "under review".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also not issued advice that the masks should be worn by the public.

Dr David Nabarro, the special envoy of the World Health Organisation, acknowledged that the entire population cannot currently be issued face masks, and said any supplies the country have should first be given to healthcare workers.

"Without them, they are at risk. There is a global shortage, they must be prioritised," he said.

"Face protection needs to be worn by people who have symptoms of the disease or suspect they might have symptoms of the disease. That stops them spreading it."

"Thirdly people whose occupations require them to be up close to other people, whether it's working in supermarkets, hairdressing or similar things.

What masks are doctors wearing to protect themselves from coronavirus?

Doctors and medical officials having to come in close contact with those with the virus are wearing much more heavy-duty masks like a N95 respirator - a mask designed to fit the wearer’s face specifically.

Despite there not been any solid scientific proof that ordinary masks block the virus from entering a person's body, N95 masks do block it.

Coronavirus face masks aren't completely effective because of the loose-fitting
Coronavirus face masks aren't completely effective because of the loose-fitting. Picture: PA Images

What’s the best way to protect against the coronavirus?

While wearing a mask hasn't proved the best way, it’s washing your hands that has been recommended as the most important as this can kill germs the most effectively.

Avoid touching your eyes and nose and always sneeze into a tissue and put in the bin.

However, multiple countries have now broken rank and recommended citizens wear something to cover their face.

The US is among the growing number of nations, although President Donald Trump has said he will not be following the advice his administration has given.

Previously, health experts revealed face masks aren’t effective enough in protecting us from illnesses like the coronavirus.

They have said they will still allow bacteria to reach the face as they can’t completely close off the mouth and nose due to poor fitting. Viruses can also be contracted through eyes.