A row has erupted among scientists over a new report into the use of face masks by general public as an approach to managing the spread of Covid-19 in the community.
The report from a multidisciplinary group convened by the Royal Society called Delve – Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics – has weighed up the evidence and come out in favor of the public wearing face masks, in a bid to tackle Covid-19.
“Our analysis suggests that their use could reduce onward transmission by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic wearers if widely used in situations where physical distancing is not possible or predictable, contrasting to the standard use of masks for the protection of wearers,” the report notes. “If correctly used on this basis, face masks can contribute to reducing viral transmission.”
The conclusion is based on analysis of three key considerations, including the role of droplets as a route of transmission, and whether masks can help to reduce dispersal of droplets. However the authors note there are only a small number of studies.
But the report prompted other scientists to express their reservations, warning that it amounted to no more than opinion and overstated the available evidence.