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Masks Alone May Not Stop COVID-19 Spread Without Physical Distancing, Study Says

According to Krishna Kota, an associate professor at New Mexico State University in the USA, while a mask definitely helps in stoping transmission, but if the people are very close to each other, there is still a chance of contracting the coronavirus

Masks Alone May Not Stop COVID-19 Spread Without Physical Distancing, Study Says
Highlights
  • Without a face mask, people will remain vulnerable to COVID-19: Expert
  • Wearing a mask will offer substantial protection: Experts
  • People should avoid close face-to-face interactions: Expert

Washington: Simply wearing a face mask may not protect you from catching the novel coronavirus, that causes COVID-19, if you are not maintaining physical distancing, according to a study. The research, published in the journal Physics of Fluids, tested how five different types of mask materials affected the spread of droplets that carry the SARS-CoV-2 virus, when we cough or sneeze. All the material the researchers tested dramatically reduced the number of droplets that were transmitted.

Also Read: COVID-19 Pandemic: The New Variation Of SARS-CoV-2 Is Rapidly Replacing Other Strains, Says WHO’s Soumya Swaminathan

However, enough droplets to potentially cause the viral illness still made it through several of the materials when physical distance was less than six feet, they said.

A mask definitely helps, but if the people are very close to each other, there is still a chance of spreading or contracting the virus. It’s not just masks that will help. It’s both the masks and distancing, said Krishna Kota, an associate professor at New Mexico State University in the USA.

The researchers developed a machine that uses an air generator to mimic human coughs and sneezes. The generator was used to blow tiny liquid particles, like the airborne droplets of sneezes and coughs, through laser sheets in an airtight square tube with a camera. They blocked the flow of the droplets in the tube with five different types of materials — a regular cloth, a two-layer cloth mask, a wet two-layer cloth, a surgical mask, and a medical-grade N-95 ventilator.

Each of the masks captured the vast majority of droplets, ranging from the regular cloth mask, which allowed about 3.6 per cent of the droplets to go through, to the N-95 mask, which statistically stopped 100 per cent of the droplets.

The researchers noted that at distances of less than six feet, even those small percentages of droplets can be enough to get someone sick, especially if a person with COVID-19 sneezes or coughs multiple times.

Also Read: COVID-19 Vaccination Drive: Delhi Begins Training 3,500 Healthcare Workers

According to the researchers, a single sneeze can carry up to 200 million tiny virus particles, depending on how sick the carrier is. They noted that even if a mask blocks a huge percentage of those particles, enough could escape to get someone sick if that person is close to the carrier.

Without a face mask, it is almost certain that many foreign droplets will transfer to the susceptible person. Wearing a mask will offer substantial, but not complete, protection to a susceptible person by decreasing the number of foreign airborne sneeze and cough droplets that would otherwise enter the person without the mask, he said.

Mr. Kota added that people should try to minimise or avoid close face-to-face or frontal human interactions.

Also Read: Study Reveals Reliable COVID-19 Test Could Reduce Virus Spread

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

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