New Study Strongly Backs COVID-19 Interventions Like Physical Distancing, Masks & Eye Protection

by GoNews Desk 11 months ago Views 1522

Keeping at least one metre from other people as well as wearing face coverings and eye protection, in and outside of health-care settings, could be the best way to reduce the chance of viral infection or transmission of COVID-19, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis synthesising all the available evidence from the scientific literature, published in The Lancet.

The study, conducted to inform WHO guidance documents, is the first time researchers have systematically examined the optimum use of these protective measures in both community and healthcare settings for COVID-19. The authors say it has immediate and important implications for curtailing the current COVID-19 pandemic and future waves by informing disease models, and standardising the definition of who has been ‘potentially exposed’ (ie, within 2 metres) for contact tracing.

Many countries and regions have issued conflicting advice about physical distancing to reduce transmission of COVID-19, based on limited information. In addition, the questions of whether masks and eye coverings might reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the general population, and what the optimum use of masks in healthcare settings is, have been debated during the pandemic.

“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” and inform pandemic response efforts in the community”, says Professor Holger Schünemann from McMaster University in Canada, who co-led the research. “Governments and the public health community can use our results to give clear advice for community settings and healthcare workers on these protective measures to reduce infection risk.”

The currently best available evidence suggests that COVID-19 is most commonly spread by respiratory droplets, especially when people cough and sneeze, entering through the eyes, nose, and mouth, either directly or by touching a contaminated surface. At the moment, although there is consensus that SARS-CoV-2 mainly spreads through large droplets and contact, debate continues about the role of aerosol spreading.

For the current analysis, an international team of researchers did a systematic review of 172 observational studies assessing distance measures, face masks, and eye protection to prevent transmission between patients with confirmed or probable COVID-19, SARS, or MERS infection and individuals close to them (eg, caregivers, family, healthcare workers), up to May 3, 2020.

However, none of these interventions, even when properly used and combined, give complete protection from infection, the authors note.

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