The report, prepared by the UK-based Cochrane Review, researched whether physical interventions – including masks – reduce the speed of respiratory viruses.
Since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been told that face masks, social distancing, sanitisation and vaccination, are the ways through which people can avoid contracting the viral disease, or at least, have the best possible chance of avoiding the infection. So much so, that for the better part of the pandemic, face masks became mandatory across the world; even today, when the pandemic has largely subsided, people can still be seen wearing masks.
Now, however, authors of a study have concluded ‘Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference.’ The study, conducted by the UK-based Cochrane Review, researched whether physical interventions – including masks – reduce the speed of respiratory viruses.
According to US online magazine Slate.com, reviews by Cochrane are widely considered as the ‘gold standard of evidence-based medicine.’
Here’s all you need to know about what Cochrane’s report on masks:
(1.) In this report, as many as 11 new studies were added to the previous 67 analysed by Cochrane. The new studies – six were conducted during the pandemic – include those from various countries, and cover nearly 611,000 participants.
(2.) It also found that even for health care workers providing routine care, there were ‘no clear differences’ between the medical/surgical masks, and the N95 ones.
(3.) A previous version of the Cochrane review, published in Nov 2020, did not include Covid-19 research, which, however, got added in the current edition. The previous version also concluded masking the entire population against a respiratory disease is ‘unwarranted.’
(4.) For the 2023 edition, the authors used only randomised controlled trials (RCTs), which randomise groups, rather than individuals. RCTs minimise any bias that may crop up in observational studies.
(5.) Authors of the report, however, also say its results do not necessarily mean masks are not effective, but that all studies thus far have found these may not stop the spread of a respiratory disease.