Face masks reduce new infections significantly, German study finds COVID-19 Special | JPNN.us

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wearing a mask is no big deal in asia they’ve been doing it long before the coronavirus pandemic western countries have been more reluctant to adopt face masks as a useful tool to fight the virus we don’t generally recommend the wearing of masks in public by otherwise well individuals because it has not been up to now associated with any particular benefit but eventually opinion changed fancy home zone masks popped up everywhere and experts changed their tune people congregating often without masks of being in crowds and jumping over and avoiding and not paying attention to the guidelines that we very carefully put out we’re going to continue to be in a lot of trouble and there’s going to be a lot of hurt if that does not stop as more variants of the virus emerged medical masks were back on the agenda even becoming mandatory in some places but can masks really beat the virus that’s the question welcome to our code with 19 special i’m monica jones in berlin good to have you with us and just in case you’re wondering why isn’t she wearing a mask well the studio is pretty much the only place i can take it off for now because things keep changing just like the virus itself and that also goes for the acceptance of wearing masks and the evidence that they really help curb the spread of the virus in fact a study from germany has found that face masks could reduce the number of new covid19 infections 20 days after their mandatory introductions anywhere from 15 to 75 percent researchers also found that the reduction in new cases was the most for those above 60 years of age this is the first study to identify causal effects in a population rather than in a clinical setting highlighting the correlation between wearing face masks and a drop in new infections klaus velde professor of economics at the johannes gutenberg university mainz is the co-author of this study and he joins me now good to have you with us what i noticed is that your study doesn’t mention specific face masks why not well that’s true we don’t mention specific face masks because the regulation at that time just required to wear any mask so the these were probably normal uh self-made homemade masks okay so we don’t really know about the efficacy uh when we take into consideration the medical masks which are now mandatory in many places or ffp masks do you have a hunch would they be even more effective well yes of course i mean there are other studies that study in uh detail which type of mask is more effective and we know of course that uh gloth masks are not the best one so ffp2 mask as an example they have a much better filtering system okay but apart from the the model or the material of a face mask what other factors play a role in in making wearing a mask effective i believe your study also points to different regions different climate yeah well regions and climate i’m not so sure but but what definitely matters is how good a mask fits now if as a man you wear a beard then of course there’s a lot of air flow at the edge of the mask and this can be a problem and in any case with any mask it depends on the environment if you are in a contaminated if you inhale contaminated ambient air then you can get infected anyway i mean uh droplets and very small droplets they enter anyway right uh i just had to smile because you mentioned beards and i know a few colleagues here including our science correspondent uh who will find it difficult to part with the beard uh but but back to the efficacy of a face mask the average in your study says it’s at around 45 47 that’s a good start but it means that we also need different measures to win this fight which rules are the most important are all the rules that we need in place from your point of view well it’s definitely true masks are not the only measure we should employ there should be other rules but if i uh should say something about rules i mean rules are one thing but compliance to rules it’s a much different thing um when we look for example at the sudden increase of infections before christmas then we this cannot be related to rules because the rules didn’t change at that time but we know from mobility data that around christmas which can be understood but nevertheless around christmas mobility increased a lot so the question is how much compliance is there to uh rules in the private uh environment and then another issue is for example the masks at workplace i recently went to a small enterprise for mechanical repairs and everybody was without mask i mean i i was shocked i mean so masks at the workplace they would all that would be a good measure as well exactly and you just mentioned uh statistics with uh looking at mobility before christmas i mean we’ve we’ve been flooded with uh statistics on daily uh infection numbers now for almost a year now and more recently sadly we also get the daily death numbers but how helpful are those statistics when it comes to assessing the situation right now yeah this is a very uh important uh question the daily reported infection numbers we hear every day they have serious statistical problems there’s a systematic bias where does this bias come from well we test for different reasons one example is we test when people go to a doctor and have symptoms and then we test individuals who had contact with the person who is infected or we test individuals that return from holidays the statistical problem resulting from this is when the relative importance of how many tests you undertake because of symptoms or because of travelers or because of other reasons when this relative share changes then the reported number of infections are not comparable over time there are of course other statistics which are less biased when we think about the number of individuals in intensive care units i mean this is definitely very unbiased this is a very good measure and then as you said the number of deaths you don’t want to hear this but this is also an unbiased measure but unfortunately these measures are delayed i mean this is not instantaneous measure of how severe a pandemic is so what we should do is we should not just test individuals i mean testing is extremely important test as much as possible but we should also report why individuals were tested and if we knew for example all the positive tests of individuals that were tested because they had symptoms then we should then we would count covid19 cases so cases of the disease and this would be an unbiased measure of the severity of the pandemic okay so there is definitely some homework to be done certainly when it comes to effective testing just very briefly at what point do you think can we bend our masks ah uh well when the pandemic is over simple answer okay if if if i had to give a rule um wait for the number of patients in intensive care units to fall to a level that we had in spring 2020 um then we can be more relaxed so we need to use unbiased measures and uh on this we can base long-term rules and long-term planning all right that sounds like a good plan class veda professor of economics at the hannes gutenberg university minds and co-author of the study on face masks thank you so much you’re welcome so testing and wearing face masks to reduce the number of infections that’s half the battle one but some cases are less easy to trace than others which brings us to one of your questions and over to our science correspondent derek williams what do estimates now say about the percentage of infections caused by asymptomatic cases to answer this we have to first look at differences and similarities in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers of covid19 now if someone is infected with the virus it might take time to develop symptoms but most people eventually do um they’re just pre-symptomatic for a while one of the things that’s made this disease so hard to combat is that unlike for example people who got sars we think covet 19 patients grow most contagious late in their incubation periods so so while the virus is reproducing rapidly but before they begin to show symptoms for some reason truly asymptomatic people never develop symptoms but apparently go through a similar stage of shedding the virus what asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people have in common are those few days where both are carrying the virus and shedding it yet neither is showing any sign of disease so maybe we should instead ask how many people are getting covet 19 from people who aren’t showing any symptoms a recent study published by cdc specialists tried to answer that question the researchers had to make a couple of educated guesses but but based on data from other studies they assumed that close to a third of all people who catch the virus remain truly asymptomatic and that they’re around 75 percent as infectious as those with full-blown disease um if those baseline assumptions are correct asymptomatic people would be responsible for around a quarter of all covet 19 infections pre-symptomatic transmitters are thought to pass it along at even higher rates than that so so the model therefore predicts over half of all cases of cobit 19 are transmitted by people who have no symptoms at the time they transmit it no wonder tracing infection chains has proven so difficult um it’s more support for the advice that that wearing masks in public is a good idea even if no one around you is coughing which brings us back to the topic of this program that was derek williams of course and he’ll be back to answer more of your questions again tomorrow that’s all for this edition of kobe 19 special but as we’re all starved of arts and culture in these trying times we want to leave you with some images from eternal rome from the coliseum to the vatican museum which you can visit again with a face mask of course .

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