The Clinic is Closed

Should the Public Wear Masks?

Masks in public

Should I wear a Mask in Public?  My own personal decision.

The advice on whether to wear a mask in public remains controversial. At the time of writing this, the World Health Organisation advises that if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19. The WHO also recommends that if you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly, which seems to suggest that the public would need special training.

At the opposite end of spectrum of advice, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (eg grocery stores and pharmacies). The CDC goes even further by advising how to make one, how to use it and how to wash it.

There are many reasons why there are so many different guidelines for face masks and coverings for the public. Here are just a few:

  • the virus is completely new and research is still emerging and definitive answers are just not available
  • recent data suggests that transmission by people who do not have symptoms is important
  • health authorities are concerned that if the public starts wearing masks, there may be a shortage of masks for healthcare workers;
  • wearing masks may give people a fall sense of security and they may abandon social distancing or even hand-washing
  • western cultures seem to have an aversion to covering the face in public


Covid-virus-R-numberYesterday in the UK, Boris Johnson at the Downing Street briefing on 30th April suggested that we may be able to get back to work soon and that face-covering may be useful in reducing the rate of transmission of the virus.  The Prime Minister explained the importance of the Coronavirus R number in predicting spread and emphasised the importance of keeping R below 1. The Scottish Government has already recommended wearing face covering. Covering the face in public may be an important contribution to methods to keep R low which also includes “Test, Track and Trace”.  Today, the government announced that over 122.000 tests for Coronavirus were provided on the last day of April, bringing us one step closer to the end of lockdown.

Professor Trisha Greenhalgh and colleagues have written a review of what limited evidence we have on the science behind face masks in public (for the the public to read) and I am persuaded to wear face covering in public. Professor Greenhalgh has also written a review for the medical and scientific community.You can read that review here

So what will I be doing? My family and I plan to wear a cloth face covering in public with the intention that we will be doing our bit to reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in our community. Of course,  we will also continue to maintain social distancing and we will continue to wash our hands frequently.

Although face covering may not be mandatory, and may only remain a recommendation by the government, in my own personal opinion, I advise that everyone should seriously consider covering their faces in public unless there is a good reason not to do so.

Disclaimer: this post represents my own personal opinion. Let’s see if the government advice changes next week!