- Physical distancing results in a large reduction of COVID-19: Researchers
- Basic measures such as hand hygiene are essential to curtail COVID-19
- McMaster University and St Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton conducted the study
Washington D.C.: A recent study has provided evidence that following the measure of physical distancing, wearing face masks and eye protection, will indeed prevent the spread of coronavirus. The research was conducted by an international team led by McMaster University and St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. The systematic review and meta-analysis were commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The findings were published today in The Lancet.
Physical distancing likely results in a large reduction of COVID-19, said lead author Holger Schunemann, professor of the departments of health research methods, evidence, and impact, and medicine at McMaster.
Prof Schunemann is co-director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases, Research Methods and Recommendations. He also is director of Cochrane Canada and McMaster GRADE Centre.
Although the direct evidence is limited, the use of masks in the community provides protection, and possibly N95 or similar respirators worn by health-care workers suggest greater protection than other face masks. Availability and feasibility and other contextual factors will probably influence recommendations that organisations develop about their use. Eye protection may provide additional benefits, said Prof Schunemann.
The systematic review was conducted by a large, international collaborative of researchers, front-line and specialist clinicians, epidemiologists, patients, public health and health policy experts of published and unpublished literature in any language.
They sought direct evidence on COVID-19 and indirect evidence on related coronaviruses causative of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The team used Cochrane methods and the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach, which is used worldwide to assess the certainty of evidence.
They identified no randomised control trials addressing the three coronaviruses but 44 relevant comparative studies in health-care and non-health-care (community) settings across 16 countries and six continents from the inception to early May 2020.
The authors noted more global, collaborative, well-conducted studies of different personal protective strategies are needed. For masks, large randomized trials are underway and are urgently needed.
The scientific lead is Derek Chu, a clinician-scientist in the departments of health research methods, evidence, and impact, and medicine at McMaster and an affiliate of the Research Institute of St Joe’s Hamilton.
There is an urgent need for all caregivers in health-care settings and non-health-care settings to have equitable access to these simple personal protective measures, which means scaling up production and consideration about repurposing manufacturing. However, although distancing, face masks, and eye protection were each highly protective, none made individuals totally impervious from infection and so, basic measures such as hand hygiene are also essential to curtail the current COVID-19 pandemic and future waves, Dr Chu further said.