In a new study conducted by the microbiology department at the University of Hong Kong, wearing a surgical mask can reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, by 75%. The study seems to dispel the judgment of many world leaders, who have publicly questioned the effectiveness of wearing a mask. Dr. Yuen Kwok-Yung, one of the leading microbiologists at the University of Hong Kong, has an especially strong belief in the results of this study, saying “what the findings implied to the world and the public, is that the effectiveness of mask-wearing against the coronavirus pandemic is huge”.
The study placed groups of hamsters in two cages, with one group of hamsters healthy and the other group infected with COVID-19. The hamsters were placed into three different situations and were observed to gage the effectiveness of mask barriers. In one situation the mask barriers were placed only on cages, with the infected hamsters, the second situation only had masks covering the healthy hamsters, and the final situation contained no barriers at all. To ensure the transmission of respiratory droplets, a fan was placed next to the cages for every situation. The results concluded that when a barrier was placed over the cage, the infection rate was just over 15%, with the infection rate raising to 33% when only a mask barrier was placed on the healthy hamsters. The most astonishing result from the study, found that when no barriers were used 66% of healthy hamsters were infected with the virus, within seven days. Hamsters have similar enzyme receptors to humans, which is why they were the animals chosen to conduct this field of research.
After so many contradicting studies and reports, all claiming to answer the question “do masks protect you against the coronavirus”, there are a few conclusions we do know are true. We know some masks are more effective than others, due to several reasons, two of which include what fabric the mask is made of and how well the mask fits. With researchers scrambling to find any sort of defense against the virus that has now surpassed 5 million cases worldwide, studies like the one conducted in Hong Kong, should not be taken lightly. As Yuen would go on to agree, saying “up to this stage, we do not have a safe effective vaccine, what remains practical is still either social-distancing measures or wearing masks”.