Czech Republic message: Masks' partial protection is better than nothing
Time and time again we're being asked to address the issue of whether we should all be donning facemasks in the bid to stem the spread of Covid-19, especially when out shopping or sharing any space with the public.
The messages from health departments in different countries and the world's health bodies are shifting. Up until now, the message has been for health workers and Covid-positive people to wear masks.
But now this is being reviewed and these bodies are saying wearing masks, if properly cleaned and sanitised, may reduce the chance of infection.
The Czech Republic is one European nation that has stood out as having managed to keep Covid-19 infection rates significantly low, and some are arguing that it is because they advocated the wearing of masks by everyone.
Refilwe Moloto talks to Dr Emil Pavlik, a medical microbiologist and virologist from the Institute of Immunology and Microbiology at Charles University in the Czech Republic.
He says the Czech Republic has had a somewhat lower number of increasing infections of Covid-19 and deaths.
He says about 3000 people tested positive for the virus of which only 100 have been hospitalised and 48 deaths.
What was the difference in our country compared to other places? In the beginning, there were rules adopted by the government not to allow people from high risk to enter the country.Dr Emil Pavlik, Medical microbiologist and virologist - Institute of Immunology and Microbiology Charles University
Those returning from holidays in areas such as Italy were placed in quarantine for two weeks, he says.
But some did not follow the rules and community transmission did begin to occur.
One of the rules to manage this was adopted finally, on the recommendations of epidemiologists, was the obligatory wearing of masks when we go out on the street, shopping or on public transport.Dr Emil Pavlik, Medical microbiologist and virologist - Institute of Immunology and Microbiology Charles University
Pavlik agrees the high-grade medical masks should be used by healthcare professionals.
The disposable masks that are for healthcare professionals could last for two or three hours then when they get wet you have to get rid of them and use new ones.Dr Emil Pavlik, Medical microbiologist and virologist - Institute of Immunology and Microbiology Charles University
So a very large number is required and necessary in order to prevent the collapse of the healthcare system, he adds.
So what masks should ordinary citizens be wearing on the streets and how much protection do they offer?
Pavlik says they have conducted experiments in the Academy of Sciences at the Institute of Chemistry.
Aerosols can be stopped even with a tissue or t-shirt and it can catch up to 80% of droplets.Dr Emil Pavlik, Medical microbiologist and virologist - Institute of Immunology and Microbiology Charles University
If you were a cotton mask it protects others from your droplets and it protects you from droplets than can be transmitted to you.Dr Emil Pavlik, Medical microbiologist and virologist - Institute of Immunology and Microbiology Charles University
Of course, the virus can penetrate but the infectious dose of the virus will be lower and so your immune system will have a better chance of protecting you than if the dose is very high,Dr Emil Pavlik, Medical microbiologist and virologist - Institute of Immunology and Microbiology Charles University
The message is, partial protection is better than nothing.Dr Emil Pavlik, Medical microbiologist and virologist - Institute of Immunology and Microbiology Charles University
They do no harm if they are properly used...they must be properly sterilized by washing, boiling and then ironing.Dr Emil Pavlik, Medical microbiologist and virologist - Institute of Immunology and Microbiology Charles University
He says after wearing it for a few hours, the mask must be properly washed and ironed.
Listen to his interview below:
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