A new study in Hong Kong supports the health and policy authorities in recommending its use.
Experiments by a team led by Dr Yuen Kwok Yung, a leading microbiologist from the University of Hong Kong who helped discover the SARS virus in 2003, show that the rate of transmission of the coronavirus through respiratory droplets or airborne particles decreased by up to 75 per cent when surgical masks were used.
“The significance of the findings on the effectiveness of mask use against the coronavirus pandemic is enormous,” said Kwok Yung, whose study has already been published by the department of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong. The local media says it will soon be published in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Microbiologists at the university used two groups of hamsters for the experiment, one infected with the coronavirus and the other healthy, and conducted three tests. In the first experiment, no surgical mask was placed between the two groups of hamsters; in the second, a mask was placed near the cages that house the infected hamsters, as if they were wearing a mask. And in the third, a mask protected the cages that housed the healthy hamsters.
In the first experiment, two-thirds (66.7%) of the healthy hamsters became infected after seven days. This compares with only one-sixth (16.7%) of the healthy hamsters that became infected when the mask was placed over the infected cage and one-third (33%) in the third environment, when the protective barrier was only used to cover the cage of the healthy hamsters.