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Compulsory wearing of facemasks slows spread of coronavirus, study suggests

Dominic Lipinski

By John Besley, PA

The compulsory use of facemasks can slow the spread of Covid-19 cases by as much as 40%, a new study has suggested.

The German report, published as a discussion paper for the Institute of Labour Economics, determined that mandatory facemasks can “reduce the daily growth rate of reported infections by around 40%”.

The study involved researchers examining the growth rate of cases in regions across Germany in the days following the introduction of masks in shops and on public transport.

For the experiment, the team of scientists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the University of Southern Denmark closely studied the German city of Jena, which introduced mandatory facemasks on April 6.

The number of positive coronavirus cases recorded in the city fell by 25% over the next 20 days.

The report said: “Comparing the daily growth rate in the synthetic control group with the observed daily growth rate in Jena, the latter shrinks by around 60% due to the introduction of facemasks.

“This is a sizeable effect. Wearing facemasks apparently helped considerably in reducing the spread of Covid-19.”

The report came just days before new Government rules requiring people to wear face coverings on all public transport in England come into effect.

While the researchers behind the study hailed the results, they said more detailed analysis is still required before any definitive conclusion on the effectiveness of facemasks can be made.

“Our results provide some initial empirical evidence on this important matter (but) we simultaneously stress the need for more detailed analyses,” the report stated.

“First, Germany is only one country. Different norms or climatic conditions might change the picture for other countries.

“Second, we have ignored spatial dependencies in the epidemic diffusion of Covid-19. This might play a role.

“Third, there are various types of facemasks. We cannot identify differential effects since mask regulations in German regions do not require a certain type.

“This calls for further systematic causal analyses of the different health measures implemented to fight the spread of Covid-19.”