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Health 13 March 2020
By: Jess Rahardjo

Are Masks Really Effective to Prevent Coronavirus Spread?


As the Coronavirus pandemic rapidly spreads across many countries including Indonesia, some people turn to buy masks to prevent spread of virus, and some even hoard masks in order to sell it with much higher price due to high demand. However, while masks might be an important equipment to have for healthcare providers who are responsible to take care of patients or those who are sick, are masks really useful to be worn by common people, especially when you're healthy? How effective is it when it comes to coronavirus prevention and does it really protect you from the virus itself? On this week's journal, we will be explaining a few things regarding masks and its effectiveness against coronavirus, as well as doing some fact checking from legit sources like WHO. Read on!

Does wearing face mask help lower your chances of contracting Coronavirus?

People wearing face masks, particularly surgical masks, are increasingly common in public transportation and other public facilities. It is helpful to block out fine dust, pathogens and pollution. However, it is important to note that surgical masks won't help much in protecting yourself against a virus, simply because the filter on those masks are not designed to keep out viral particles since they're not nearly as tightly fitted around nose and cheeks.

Surgical masks might be effective in blocking out respiratory droplets omitted from the nose or mouth, however, which are the main transmission routes of coronavirus. Therefore, people who need to wear masks for prevention are mainly caretakers/medical staffs who are first in line to take care of patients and people who are ill, coughing, or already showing symptoms of coronavirus. That is when wearing a mask could be helpful for protecting those around you.

Experts all around the world have shown concern for this act, as wearing surgical masks may give people a false sense of reassurance and may lead them into not practicing other cleanliness methods when it comes to virus prevention. Moreover, putting on a face mask without proper fitting and training could actually backfire. For example, fumbling with face mask is requiring your unclean hands to touch your face, which may increase your risk of contracting the virus itself. 

What then should you do to protect yourself?

As previously explained, wearing masks will probably make little difference if you’re just walking around town or taking public transportation. However, we will be explaining simple, practical steps that can be more effective to safeguard you from contracting Coronavirus.

1. Wash your hands

Experts agreed that hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses like coronavirus. That is because one of the most common ways infections spread is through touch; for example, people touching various surfaces and then subconsciously touch their face, particularly the eyes, mouth or nose. It's also important to know the proper steps of hand washing so you can clean them thoroughly, particularly the nails, fingertips and wrists.

2. Avoid touching your face and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing

Remind yourself to not touch your face, especially  the eyes, nose, and mouth when it's not really needed, and especially if you previously haven't washed your hands. This is very important to note if you're frequently using public transportations like bus and trains, as you may have touched the handgrips or rails. In public setting, you should also cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, as well as minimize contact with sick people whenever possible.

3. Clean & disinfect your phone and work surfaces frequently

During these times, it's highly important to have clean hands. However, the other thing more important than your hands to be kept clean are your phone and work surfaces. Think about how many times you use your phone in a day, and make the effort to clean your phone and other work surfaces daily with alcohol swabs. This is important to reduce germs and bacteria that may reside on various surfaces, including your phone and work tables.

4. Postpone / cancel travel plans to affected areas

It's a wise decision to postpone any travel plans to places with known outbreaks. A lot of countries are now wary of foreigners coming into their territory to prevent imported cases of Coronavirus. To prevent importing the virus yourself, you should be wise enough to reschedule or cancel your plans in traveling to affected areas, especially if you don't have urgent matters to attend to.

5. Avoid crowds

Last but not least, goverments are now giving out awareness to their citizens by not frequenting public places or crowds if not necessarily needed. However, for a city as packed as Jakarta, this effort may not be as effective, especially when a lot of people frequently commute using public transport every day. Therefore, it is especially important to safeguard yourselves by building your immunity.