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Covid-19 prevention: Social distancing and masks are our best bets according to the Lancet

Published on:2 June 2020, 13:19pm IST
Prevention is better than cure especially in this covid-19 pandemic. In fact, a recent report says that maintaining social distance and wearing face masks are key in covid-19 prevention.
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With Italy finding antibodies in many patients, it certainly brings hope. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Doctors and experts from all over the world have been advocates of wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. According to them, this is the only way to fight this pandemic. 

That said, there have been a lot of ifs and buts about the importance of wearing masks and whether they are a fool-proof measure to steer clear of covid-19. But now this cloud of ambiguities is drifting as a review paper that analysed evidence from 172 studies in 16 countries states that these measures are indeed our only chance. 

Researchers found frequent handwashing and good hygiene are also critical techniques to prevent covid-19. Bear in mind, the researchers are also quick to point out that even all these measures combined cannot give us full protection from covid-19, but people who are adopting them are better off. 

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N95 facial mask is an effective way to curb coronavirus transmission. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

This finding was published in The Lancet journal on Monday. 

This is the simplest way to prevent covid-19, say researchers
“Our findings are the first to synthesise all direct information on covid-19, SARS, and MERS, and provide the currently best available evidence on the optimum use of these common and simple interventions to help ‘flatten the curve,’” said Holger Schünemann from McMaster University in Canada, who co-led the research.

The researchers also said that keeping at least one-metre distance and wearing face masks and goggles (for eye protection) are the best ways to cut the risk of covid-19 infection.

Researchers also suggested that we need to understand the ways SARS-CoV-2 spreads. The most common ways for this virus to spread are via droplets, especially when people cough from where it can enter through the eyes, nose and mouth, either directly or via contaminated surfaces.

For this analysis, an international research team conducted a systematic review of 172 studies assessing distance measures, face masks, and eye protection to prevent transmission of three diseases caused by coronaviruses–covid-19, SARS and MERS.

World Hand Hygiene Day 2020
Wash your hands as your mama taught you to fight covid-19 and other infections. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The researchers noted that the findings, while comprehensive, have some limitations for the current pandemic since most of the evidence came from studies of SARS and MERS.

The researchers have also found that though physical distancing of at least one metre lowers the risk of covid-19 transmission, a distance of two metres could be more effective. Masks and protective eye coverings may also add protective benefits, though the evidence for that was less clear cut, they added.

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Don’t touch your face without washing hands. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Derek Chu, an assistant professor at McMaster University who co-led the research, said people should understand that “wearing a mask is not an alternative to physical distancing, eye protection or basic measures such as hand hygiene.”

So the bottom line is that before you step out, wearing protective gear is a must and so is following social distancing and good hygiene practices. 

(With inputs from Reuters)

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