Are Face Masks Still Necessary?
Face mask use is declining among the general public, but it shouldn’t be.
Face mask mandates, or the lack thereof, are wildly varied across the globe. In some places, restrictions were eased due to a decrease in daily infection rates, in others, the community had decided that enough was enough. Due to these mandate changes and a general weariness following two years of a global pandemic, face mask sales and their use have declined dramatically.
However, and we’re not just saying this because we sell face masks, now is not the time to get complacent. The pandemic is far from over and as we’ve seen with the Omicron variant, vaccines often aren’t enough to stop the spread of the virus on their own.
If you’re in a region where face masks and coverings are optional, we urge you to consider these three key reasons for continuing to wear one: for yourself, for those around you, and for the future.
You may feel as though there’s no point wearing a mask if no one else around you is wearing one. That’s not the case though. Face masks can protect you even if those around you aren’t wearing them anymore.
Depending on the type of mask – remember that not all masks are created equal – they can stop viral droplets from coming into contact with your nose and mouth. Therefore, if anyone around you is infected, you’re at a lower risk of catching the virus yourself.
For Those Around You
Some types of face masks can work in two ways; they can not only protect you from exposure, but they can also prevent viral particles from being spread by you. This is particularly important if you’re around other people while you’re ill. You can spread coronavirus whether you’re symptomatic or asymptomatic, so while you may think you’re not sick or contagious, you could still potentially infect others.
This is particularly worrisome if you come into contact with vulnerable people. Older people, those with weaker immune systems, or unvaccinated people are all at higher risk of getting seriously ill if they catch COVID.
For the Future
We’re not yet at the point where the coronavirus is endemic like the flu or the common cold- which means there’s still uncertainty about what will happen during the coming year and beyond. It’s highly likely that new variants will emerge and whilst scientists have some predictions, we don’t know exactly what they’ll look like. The effects a new variant has on populations will depend on its transmissibility, infectiousness, severity, and whether it’s restrained by our vaccine and natural immunity.
As we have experienced with Omicron, a highly transmissible variant will mean that mask mandates are reintroduced and if they’re not, masks will be highly recommended.
Putting COVID-19 aside, many parts of the world are now also heading into flu season. We know that masks are effective at preventing airborne diseases from spreading, so it would be beneficial for Western cultures to take the lead from countries like Japan and Singapore and continue to wear masks when we’re feeling ill.