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Your Covid-19 questions answered

Can wearing a face mask really prevent me from getting Covid-19?

04 August 2022 - 07:22
A prepublished study shows that wearing a mask is effective against Covid-19. Stock photo.
A prepublished study shows that wearing a mask is effective against Covid-19. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf/boumenjapet

While the health department and World Health Organization have long advocated wearing a mask in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a prepublished study seems to  back up their advice.

The study, which still needs to be peer-reviewed or published and therefore cannot be regarded as conclusive, was on the effectiveness of wearing a mask in preventing severe Covid-19 symptoms.

It looked at 1,539 people across 13 studies, including four community-based and nine healthcare-based. Of these, only 8% had contracted Covid-19 after wearing a mask compared with 49% who did not wear a mask and contracted Covid-19.

In a healthcare setting, 1,076 were observed. Of which 8% contracted Covid-19 while wearing a mask, compared with 33% who did not.

The effectiveness of wearing a mask was really seen in community settings.

475 were observed, with 6% of mask wearers testing positive for the coronavirus compared with 83% of those not wearing a mask.

“Based on these results, we determined that across healthcare and community settings, those who wore masks were less likely to contract Covid-19,” it concluded.

The health department recently scrapped regulations that masks are mandatory in public spaces, but said people with comorbidities and those who are ill should still wear face masks.

It warned against complacency about the Covid-19 pandemic in SA.

“Though the country recently scrapped the compulsory wearing of masks in public, people with comorbidities and those who are ill are encouraged to continue wearing a mask. We must also continue to wash or sanitise our hands, and observe social distancing and proper ventilation. 

“Vaccination remains the scientifically proven defence against Covid-19 and cabinet encourages all unvaccinated people to vaccinate without delay, and vaccinated people to get their booster shots at their nearest vaccination sites for free,” it said.

Those who feel they still need to wear a mask are encouraged to do so, with schools and business owner free to decide whether they’ll continue to implement regulations.

“If you run a facility, you have the right to determine regulations. Whether you run a shop, a restaurant, or a hotel, you can have your own regulations that you are comfortable with and your clients are happy with as well,” said health minister Joe Phaahla. 

He said a school governing body may decide to keep its own mask mandates in place and this is separate from the government’s policies.

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