Mask use and infection prevention
By Health Promotion Department, Public Health
A great number of us are tired of the Covid-19 pandemic. A mix of Covid-19 updates and reports, local and global, continue to feed our fear, uncertainty and doubt. In order to stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, it is important that we learn to live with the virus, making adjustments where we are able.
A whole community effort is needed if we are to quash this infectious virus. Efforts we make at a personal level not only affect ourselves and our households, but also the wider community.
A lot of the guidance regarding Covid-19 has changed over the past year, information being constantly updated in line with on-going research and global insights.
What we currently do know is that:
- Masks work
Use of masks can reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission by more than 70%.
They do not have to be surgical masks; cloth coverings that have two or three layers can have similar filtration efficiency. For best impact, face coverings should be well fitted and cover the mouth and nose.
- Covid-19 enjoys aerosolised spread
Factors found to contribute to airborne transmission include poorly ventilated indoor settings, prolonged exposure (i.e. spending more time with an infected person) and activities that may generate more aerosols (e.g. a high intensity training workout, a choir session…).
Meeting in open outdoor spaces when possible, wearing a mask as advised, regular hand hygiene and physical distancing from those outside your usual social bubble remain sensible methods to help prevent infection spread.
- Immunity wanes
There is much debate about the optimal required frequency for re-vaccination to protect the vulnerable from Covid-19. Different vaccines may induce different sorts of immunity, which in turn can provide different durations of best protection. With new variants emerging, it is also necessary to see if our current vaccines hold as they are, or will need to be tailored according to the viruses present (in the same way that the ‘flu vaccine is developed each year).
- take advantage of the booster when offered.
People who are vaccinated may still be infected with the virus, but their chances of passing it on are reduced to between 50-80%. Furthermore, their risk of serious illness is reduced by more than 90%. Conversely, if someone is unvaccinated and catches the virus, they are still at risk of falling very ill.
- There are people who are vulnerable
The main vulnerability for Covid-19 is older age (above 70 years). This vulnerability is exacerbated if combined with other key risk factors including poorly controlled long-term underlying conditions, being immunosuppressed or forming part of the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) cohort.
Additionally, there may be those in our community who cannot be vaccinated, for varying reasons such as allergies or underlying health contra-indications; and we need to protect them.
If you do notice any new symptoms associated with Covid-19, no matter how mild, it is important that you call 111 for advice.
Our message to you this winter:
Enjoy time with your friends and family. Consider some of the simple methods described to help prevent the spread of infection, and help keep our community safe.