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Image / Editorial

This is why face masks should be mandatory, according to a new study

by Shayna Sappington
03rd Jun 2020

Citing a new study on face mask effectiveness, health expert Luke O’Neill called for face masks to be required for hospitals and public outings.

After a new study proved just how effective face masks can be, immunologist Luke O’Neill is among many pushing for their mandatory use.

Professor O’Neill appeared on The Pat Kenny Show yesterday, saying that there is now enough research to prove face mask’s ability to significantly slow the spread of coronavirus.

Reduced infection rates

He referenced a newly published study in the Lancet Journal that showed wearing face masks can lead to a six-fold drop in the virus’ spread.

The study, funded by WHO, also found that distancing of one metre or more and eye protection cut down infection rates.

“For the general public, evidence shows that physical distancing of more than one metre is highly effective and that face masks are associated with protection, even in non-health-care settings,” it said, “with either disposable surgical masks or reusable 12–16-layer cotton ones.”

Face masks in hospitals

This research is especially important to frontline healthcare workers, said O’Neill, as a hospital in Boston has also proved.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital halved its infection rate after making masks mandatory on March 25th.

“They didn’t change anything else in that period,” he said. “That is a really good scientific study showing mask wearing as having a big effect.

“So, both of those studies make it even more compelling, as we have said all along anyway, that masks are a great thing.

“The next question is should we mandate them, because people are not wearing them?” 

A reduction in social distancing

If there is a reduction in the two-metre social distancing rule, he urged, then Ireland should make masks mandatory in public spaces.

“So, one thing that is for definite, if you want to go to one metre, you better wear a mask because now you are up close,” O’Neill said.

“That might be the recommendation, you would be allowed to go to one metre as long as you’re wearing a mask.”

If Covid-19 case numbers continue to decrease, then it’s likely the government may ease restrictions earlier than its original plan, making face masks a smart choice for everyday use.

Phase two is planned to begin on Monday, seeing the expansion of the travel radius from 5km to 20km, allowing house visits of up to four people (if they keep two metres apart), group exercise and the reopening of marts, small retail outlet and public libraries.

And while the government has strongly encouraged cocooners to wear face coverings, it has yet to make them mandatory for the general public.


Read more: 5 face masks with a cause that we are loving right now

Read more: Hearing impairment and autism: Why we should be talking about transparent face masks

Read more: We love these Irish face masks made from recycled ocean plastic, and so does Leonardo DiCaprio

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