Coronavirus: Face masks and social distancing do work, but are not foolproof says study

Social distancing can limit the chance of catching coronavirus to under 3%, according to the most comprehensive study so far.

Keeping one metre apart reduces the risk of transmission to 2.6%, while a two-metre gap decreases the chance of infection by a further 50%.

The international report, published in The Lancet, analysed data from 172 studies in 16 countries.

It found that by wearing a face mask there’s just a 3% chance of catching Covid-19.

Eye protection lowers the risk to 5.5%.

Although some of the evidence is considered “low certainty”, the study provides the clearest picture yet that social distancing measures and face coverings will be key in slowing the spread of the virus and allowing lockdown restrictions to be eased safely.

The report warns that even combining and properly using face masks, goggles and social distancing doesn’t provide complete protection.

The authors suggest that healthcare workers should wear respirators rather than surgical masks for “greater protection”.

Governments across the world have taken different approaches to safety measures, including social distancing and the compulsory wearing of face masks, in part due to conflicting scientific opinions.

In France, China and Hong Kong parts of the hospitality sector have reopened with a one-metre rule in place, while Spain has far stricter mandatory face mask rules than most other countries in Europe.

The aim of the report is to combine studies from around the globe and analyse all of the science available, to help answer which measures might reduce transmission.

However the report also says that a surge in demand for face masks could “divert supplies from health-care workers and other caregivers at highest risk for infection” and that governments need to “quickly address access issues for face masks to ensure that they are equally available for all”.

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