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Your Covid-19 questions answered

Will scrapping face masks make a difference to Covid-19 infections?

23 June 2022 - 07:00
Health minister Joe Phaahla has announced the dropping of some key Covid-19 measures, including the wearing of face masks. File photo.
Health minister Joe Phaahla has announced the dropping of some key Covid-19 measures, including the wearing of face masks. File photo.
Image: 123RF/inlooka

SA scrapping the remaining Covid-19 restrictions, including the wearing of face masks, has been met with mixed reaction, with some questioning whether this will make a difference to infection numbers. 

Health minister Joe Phaahla this week announced the dropping of key Covid-19 measures following the passing of the fifth wave and declining infections in the country. 

These include the wearing of masks, limits on gatherings and entry requirements.

“We have been monitoring the epidemic, working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and current epidemiological analysis. The figures point towards lower infection rates, and that the country has exited a recent spike of infections,” said Phaahla. 

Will scrapping face masks make a difference to infection numbers?

Around the world, European countries such France saw a spike in Covid-19 cases after easing regulations and the mandate on wearing masks.

Boise in Idaho in the US also saw a rise in Covid-19 cases after scrapping face mask mandates in March. 

The Associated Press reported hospitalisations in the US were also increasing, with 94 residents hospitalised with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 as of June 5.

World Health Organization (WHO) regional director Hans Kluge said countries including Germany, France, Italy and Britain were lifting their restrictions “too soon and too brutally”, and, as a result, witnessed sharp rises in infections.

‘There is no simple answer to this question’

According to Caprisa director and epidemiologist Prof Salim Abdool Karim, there is no simple answer to the question of scrapping measures after the fifth wave passed. 

“Some would say once measures like masks and social distancing are dropped, it would be difficult to toggle them back on when needed in the future,” said Karim. 

“Others argue prevention holidays increase adherence to public measures when they are needed. Regardless of which point of view is most applicable to a population at a given time, there are simple measures that could be considered during periods of low transmission to help people live smartly with the coronavirus — not going overboard with precautions or conceding defeat to the virus.”

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