Simply wearing a mask won’t ward off the spread of the coronavirus, experts have warned. However, a new study found that those who do wear face masks are not falling into a false sense of security as a result.
The study, published this week by the British Medical Journal, found that those who don face masks are also likely to follow additional safety precautions like regular hand washing.
The research was conducted by experts at the University of Cambridge and King’s College London and set out to look at whether or not “wearing face coverings might lead people to forgo other protective behaviours,” as some had suggested early on in the coronavirous outbreak.
However, the researchers found no link between wearing a mask and becoming lax on things like “hand hygiene.”
“Many public health bodies are coming to the conclusion that wearing a face covering might help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and the limited evidence available suggests their use doesn’t have a negative effect on hand hygiene,” co-author James Rubin said in a statement.
The researchers looked at six randomized controlled trials, which comprised of more than 2,040 households, and determined that wearing a mask did not reduce the frequency of hand washing or sanitizing. In two of the studies, self-reported rates of hand washing were higher among those who wore masks, according to the research.
“Within the mask-wearing context, the authors point out that one precautionary behavior (like mask-wearing or hand-washing) may actually remind the wearer about the need to perform the other related behaviors — thus reinforcing the whole suite of behaviors that combine to reduce transmission,” Dr. Julian Tang, who was not involved in the research, told CNN.
“Evidence is growing that wearing face covering reduces the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and the limited evidence available does not support concerns that their use adversely affects hand hygiene. This is in keeping with the larger body of evidence on interventions for which risk compensation has been shown to be an unfounded concern,” the study notes.
The authors note that more research needs to be done in order to determine how wearing a mask may influence how closely someone adheres to social distancing guidelines.