As Ministers put off a decision on whether to recommend wearing home made face masks until next week About Manchester spoke to University of Manchester’s Professor of Public Health Arpana Verma
It is understood that SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies concluded that masks are likely to slow the virus’s spread slightly but also warned of weak evidence and the threat of diverting supplies away from the NHS and the and Care Homes
First of all we asked whether DIY masks help stop the spread of the disease
“Potentially. Advice from WHO is that they may stop people who may have the virus from spreading it, so to use it when not in the house or with household members. The latest systematic review states there’s very little evidence of them reducing the spread of the disease on it’s own. We would recommend that the social distancing is what shows the most benefit and people need to maintain good hand and respiratory hygiene.”
A masks would not be in place of all those other measures. If people are symptomatic, they should use the NHS 111 online service to see if they should be self-isolating or household isolating.
Some people are taking to wearing scarves-are they of any use and which other materials would be good or bad for making masks out of
There are various reports of materials that don’t allow in the virus. I am not sure how available and affordable these are. The other issue is the fit, if there are gaps in the way the person wears the mask then virus could potentially get in. So however good the material may not protect people if the fit isn’t tight.
Finally we asked what is your perceived thinking of the effectiveness of wearing masks-again in particular how this relates to Manchester
In Manchester – as per the WHO and HM Government advice – stay in, important to distance yourself when you do go out, good hand and respiratory hygiene. Wash your hands when you come in to the house using the 20 second advice for hand washing. Avoid touching your face and especially eyes, nose, mouth. Wearing a mask might help others stop getting the virus from you if you are infected. There is little evidence it will stop you from getting the virus. If you have symptoms, check NHS 111 online.
Professor also had a message for everyone in the region
A key message is making sure people know the NHS, voluntary and care sectors are all open for business so if people are unwell or feeling anxious/depressed/worried, that they seek the appropriate advice in timely way. Especially if they have symptoms of coronavirus. People mustn’t feel alone and that there is help for whatever they are going through.