| 6.9°C Belfast

DIY masks ‘could help wipe out Covid-19’

An academic has lent her support to the growing movement calling for mask use for the general public.

Close

There has been conflicting advice on face masks (Victoria Jones/PA)

There has been conflicting advice on face masks (Victoria Jones/PA)

There has been conflicting advice on face masks (Victoria Jones/PA)

If nine in 10 people wear effective DIY face masks in public Covid-19 could be “wiped out”, a researcher has said.

Makeshift masks have become the focus of intense debate, with some saying that masks should be compulsory while others have suggested they could be problematic and cause supply issues with medical masks for frontline workers.

Government advisers are reviewing the evidence which has presented a mixed picture thus far.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the only people who need masks in the general public are those who are sick, or caring for someone who is sick.

But in a new web briefing for the Royal Society of Medicine, Trish Greenhalgh, professor of primary health care at the University of Oxford, lent support to the use of homemade masks.

“If 80 to 90% of us do it, and if the masks were say 80-90% effective, that would probably – the modellers say – be enough to reduce the effective R0 down to wipe out this disease and we can all get on with our lives,” she said.

R0 refers to the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person.

She said that she wasn’t in favour of the compulsory use of masks but said that she thought many people would be supportive of the use of homemade ones for a temporary measure.

“How do you make your own mask? You take two pieces of cotton, or a piece of cotton folded over, and you take a pantyliner or something like that [with] waterproof backing, you stick it between those. And then you hook it around the back of your ears,” she added.

At present the public are getting mixed messages about masks, she said.

“I think once you get a clear message. I suspect more and more people are going to be taking this up,” Prof Greenhalgh added.

“I’m not the kind of person that wants the Government, knocking on my door, you know, as if they’re issuing gas masks or something like that and telling me I’ve got to wear it. I would much prefer this to be a voluntary thing for 80-90% of the population saying ‘I’ve got no particular reason why I shouldn’t wear one of these’.”

There would be exceptions such as people with facial allergies, those who object for other reasons and children under two.

She added: “This is a terrible, terrible disease, and anything we can do to stamp it out is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.”

But she added medical grade masks must be reserved for frontline workers.

It comes as Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said that any decision on public mask wearing must not impact on NHS supply.

Meanwhile, a new initiative was launched to encourage the public to make their own face masks.

The campaign, www.Maskedheroes.uk , also aims to connect people who make masks to individuals and organisations in their community who need them.

A separate initiative – Masks for Heroes – is encouraging businesses which use personal protective equipment (PPE) to check whether they have any supplies which can be donated to frontline services while their businesses are not up and running.

PA