Face masks: Do they even work and will YOU keep wearing one once rules change?

Jeremy Vine clashes with caller on not wearing face masks

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation on Monday evening, setting out the final steps out of lockdown and how the nation will “learn to live with” coronavirus. Ahead of the announcement, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said legal restrictions would be dropped on mask-wearing, allowing people to “exercise a degree of personal responsibility and judgment”.

Mr Jenrick said: “Different people will come to different conclusions on things like masks.”

But the debate over whether or not people should wear masks, and what the “right” thing to do is, has already begun.

Mr Jenrick said he would shed his face covering at the earliest opportunity, but social care secretary Helen Whatley refused to say whether or not she’d continue wearing a mask when quizzed by the BBC on Monday.

Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said he would carry on wearing a mask indefinitely when experiencing any Covid symptoms or in an enclosed, crowded space.

He said: “I think, as paediatricians, we learned we can avoid massive problems with children getting sick in the winter by doing these kinds of measures.

“We simply didn’t see the epidemic of respiratory viruses last winter that we’ve seen every year throughout my career.

“I think mask-wearing is something we’ve learned is extremely valuable to do under certain circumstances.
“That doesn’t mean I’ll wear a mask all the time, but it does mean I will some of the time.”

But Mr Jenrick said: “These will be matters of personal choice. Some members of society will want to do so for publicly legitimate reasons.

“But it will be a different period where we as private citizens makes these judgments, rather than the government telling you what to do.”

What does the science say?

There are differing scientific opinions about the efficacy of masks, but one thing seems to be agreed on: the better the mask, the better the level of protection to both the wearer and those around them.

Research by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust found the quality of face masks worn by healthcare workers makes a huge difference to their risk of coronavirus infection.

Wearing a high-grade mask known as an FFP3 can provide up to 100 percent protection.

By contrast, there is a far greater chance of staff wearing standard-issue surgical masks catching the virus.

These surgical issue masks are fluid resistant but are not meant to screen out infectious aerosols – tiny virus particles that can linger in the air and are now widely accepted as a source of coronavirus infection.

But FFP3 masks have a close fit and are specifically designed to filter out aerosols, and the research showed they had a huge impact.

The kind of face masks many in the public wear – a layer or two of fabric – aren’t classed as official PPE.

They aren’t believed to help protect the wearer, but some evidence has shown they can protect others if you are infected.

But some have argued that now could be the time to try life without masks.

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which provides modelling evidence to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said July 19 is “probably the right time” to consider ending the wearing of face masks.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s an interesting one. If we are going to do that I think probably this is the right time to consider that.

“I think probably if we are going to remove them, 19th of July when we are seeing really low numbers of hospital admissions and low number of deaths, is probably the right time to consider it.”

So will YOU wear a mask once the rules have lifted?

Vote in our poll and leave your comments in the comments section below.

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