Are face masks effective in protection against Coronavirus?

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

After being encaged for several months, we all have that urge to explore outside. We miss the busy life we had, as the idle life also doesn’t seem to contribute the peace or happiness that we want. Aristotle quite rightly said that a man is a social animal. In order to be happy in life, we need a blend of both peace and fun. When we did not have coronavirus, we were upset about not having enough time to invest in ourselves, but now we want to go out and enjoy our social life. It is evident that in order to have stability, we all need a blend of all the traits in life. We want to enjoy all of that again, but how? Wearing masks? How reliable are they to let us enjoy what we have been missing in these four months? Wear a mask, or you will be fined!


Wear a mask, or else you won’t be allowed in the shop! Wear a mask, or else don’t go out! One of the biggest safety measures that we have been advised to follow is wearing masks, but how effective are the masks, is the question?


There are three kinds of masks:

  1. Surgical masks: According to a study published by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), penetration of particles by medical mask was 44%. Indicating low risk of infection while using these masks.

  2. N95 Masks: As the name suggests, N95 masks filter out 95% of the particles if worn with proper fitting. These masks are generally used by healthcare workers in high risk settings.

  3. Cloth Masks: According to a study published by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), penetration of particles by medical mask was 97%. The highest rate of outcome of infection transmission is in the cloth mask arm. Also, these reusable masks are to be washed everyday, which can also add a risk of leaving the virus particles on the hands of the person.


Reported size range of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which is causing COVID-19) is around 0.1 micrometres. Seems like no masks can protect us from the virus, then, why is everyone wearing a mask?


We wear masks because we saw masks are being worn by doctors. If it can protect doctors then definitely it can protect us, right? The doctors and policemen wear it to not protect themselves but to protect you. We fail to understand that the masks are not meant to protect us, but protect others from us in case we have COVID-19.


In case doctors and policemen get infected by COVID-19, wearing a mask can protect a lot of other people from transmitting the virus from them. They are bound to meet a lot of people at the frontlines and wearing a mask contains their respiratory droplets carrying virus out in the air. If our frontline workers such as doctors, policemen, volunteers and others become a source of transmission of COVID-19 to healthy people, it can have catastrophic effects. As all of these masks are already in short supply, the general public buying these masks will leave the frontline workers, like doctors, who protect themselves by wearing PPE but in spite of all the precautions, they can still get infected. However, they can save healthy people who come in contact by wearing these masks and PPE kits.


Please see how respiratory droplets are controlled in case we wear a mask:


According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people infected with coronavirus must wear a face mask. They should self-isolate and seek medical advice as soon as they start to feel unwell. The World Health Organization also advises to wear masks for the safety of healthy people in their community. As masks are the simple barrier which reduce the spray of droplets, as evidenced by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Noting, that masks can only reduce the concentration of droplets but there is no evidence, as stated by WHO, that wearing a mask in the community prevented healthy people from picking up COVID-19. Harmful particles can enter even through the eyes. Even the healthcare workers, in addition to the masks, wear visors too, to protect their eyes. Cloth masks are poor quality surgical face masks and they will not filter fine respiratory droplets and aerosols. It really creates a question on whether the usage of masks is bringing sufficient effect or not?


CBC News in their video questions, whether masks offer you any meaningful protection at all? But if you are sick, you should wear a mask. There is an amazing insight given by the journalist to the question of how effective masks are, stating, “A mask at the source of a sneeze or a cough is going to be far more protective for the other people”. The virus will still spread via droplets, and if these droplets escape in the open air, it will contact a lot of people. People did not notice, but felt physical distancing and hand washing will minimise it.


Did you know that wearing the N-95 masks require proper instructions to fit properly? If not correctly fitted, the seal around the mouth and nose can still allow viral particles to slip around the side. Facial hair can also affect their performance as it disrupts the seal, creating a loose space. The US Centre for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) has published a helpful guide for anyone sporting facial hair and looking to wear face masks. Most people aren't aware of the fact that a beard could also have the potential of harming us. Masks offer us protection on our nose and mouth, but the main question is, will a mask protect us from the virus depositing on the other parts of our face too?


Considering how rapidly this outbreak has contacted millions of people, we must be careful and always be well-informed. Now we know that it is an airborne transmission and the masks do not offer complete protection in closed spaces.There is a need of a continuous process to prevent and protect from the airborne spread, there is a need that this virus is contained and not to be allowed to float around.


Will you sign a new deal for your business without a face to face meetings? Yes, video calls are going to be a viable option but interpersonal trust and confidence can only be established in-person and not over calls.


We humans are social beings who want to go out and explore. We all miss those family get togethers, hanging out with friends and all this could be only possible if we have something which is not only an ineffective barrier (masks) but something which can remove and deactivate the pathogens in the air. That can bring our life to normal and again we can be with others with a peace of mind.



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