New data reveals efficacy of cloth and surgical Covid masks

Masks have been a part of life since the start of the pandemic but they are still required indoors. Image: Twitter

New data reveals efficacy of cloth and surgical Covid masks.

CLOTH face coverings are as effective as surgical masks at protecting against Covid, according to researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Surrey.

A study has found that well-fitting, three-layered cloth masks can be as effective at reducing the transmission of Covid-19 as surgical masks.

At the height of the global pandemic, 139 countries mandated the use of face coverings in public spaces such as supermarkets and public transports.

The World Health Organisation also advises the use of face coverings and offers guidance on their effective features.

Face coverings suppress the onward transmission of the virus through exhalation and protect the wearer on inhalation.

In a paper published by the Physics of Fluids journal, the researchers detail how they looked at how liquid droplets are captured and filtered out in cloth masks by reviewing and modelling filtration processes, including inertial impaction.

Inertial impaction does not filter as a sieve or colander does – it works by forcing the air in your breath to twist and turn inside the mask so much that the droplets can’t follow the path of the air.

Instead, the droplets crash into fibres inside the mask to prevent inhalation.

The team found that, under ideal conditions and dependent on the fit, three-layered cloth masks can perform similarly to surgical masks for filtering droplets – with both reducing exposure by around 50 to 75 per cent.

For example, if an infected person and a healthy individual are both wearing masks, scientists believe this could result in up to 94 per cent less exposure.

Dr Richard Sear, co-author of the study and Leader of the Soft Matter Group at the University of Surrey, said: “While wearing a simple and relatively inexpensive cloth face mask cannot eliminate the risk of contracting COVID-19, measurements and our theoretical model suggests they are highly effective in reducing transmission.

“We hope that our work inspires mask designs to be optimised in the future and we hope it helps to remind people of the importance of continuing to wear masks while COVID-19 remains present in the community,” he added.

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Written by

Tara Rippin

Tara Rippin is a reporter for Spain’s largest English-speaking newspaper, Euro Weekly News, and is responsible for the Costa Blanca region.
She has been in journalism for more than 20 years, having worked for local newspapers in the Midlands, UK, before relocating to Spain in 1990.
Since arriving, the mother-of-one has made her home on the Costa Blanca, while spending 18 months at the EWN head office in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol.
She loves being part of a community that has a wonderful expat and Spanish mix, and strives to bring the latest and most relevant news to EWN’s loyal and valued readers.

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