The lesser-known way that face masks could help us to beat coronavirus

Face masks have already become a staple everyday item in our lives and as of Friday 24 July, when they become mandatory in all shops in England on top of already being necessary on all public transport, they’ll only become an even more essential item for everyday life.

face mask in shop
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We know that the wearing of face masks is an imperfect solution to stopping the spread of coronavirus, but they do provide a physical barrier that helps prevent the spread of the virus via an exhaled breath, cough or sneeze for example, whether you are carrying it with or without symptoms.

In reaction to this, you can now find all kinds of face masks on the high street and online, from funny to functional, pretty to practical.

face mask in shop
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But there is in fact another, lesser-known way that face masks can help us to get a grip on Covid-19. Until now we’ve been under the impression that face masks are better at stopping mask-wearers from potentially spreading the virus rather than catching it. While wearing a mask may not always be able to stop you from catching the virus, a team at the University of California, San Francisco has found that masks can reduce the amount of virus that enters someone’s system, meaning they wouldn’t get as sick, maybe only suffering with mild symptoms or even not at all (asymptomatic).

Monica Gandhi, co-author of the study and associate division chief of the infectious diseases programme at San Francisco General Hospital, told The Times: ‘You will get in a lower dose of virus if you wear a mask and are exposed to Covid-19 and are very likely to have mild or no symptoms.’

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In short, it’s essentially a bit like a vaccination – if you receive a lower does of the virus, your body has a much better chance of fighting it off but still leaving you with the antibodies for the future, making you immune (although receiving 100 per cent immunity from contracting the virus is still contested). The report notes that, ‘exposing society to Sars-Cov-2 without the consequences of severe illness with public masking could lead to greater community-level immunity and slower spread as we await a vaccine.’

While the effectiveness of wearing face masks continues to be debated around the world, we’re more than happy to add one to our outfit if it means potentially saving lives, including our own.