Here's How Much Face Masks (Still) Reduce Your Risk Of Catching Covid

Just another reason why you should keep wearing your mask this winter.

It’s been two months now since Covid restrictions eased and for some, cabinet ministers included, this means taking the old rules with a pinch of salt – especially when it comes to face masks

Though no longer mandated (except on public transport in London and in general healthcare settings, unless you are exempt), face masks are still recommended in crowded, confined spaces and many shops and cafes continue to ask their customers to wear one.

Wearing one might not always be the most comfortable experience, but new studies continue to show that masks not only protect others, but reduce your own chances of catching the virus.

People who don’t wear face coverings in confined spaces are one and a half times more likely to test positive for coronavirus than those who use a mask.

That’s according to Office for National Statistics figures, which looked at the characteristics of those testing positive in the fortnight ending September 11.

Professor Trisha Greenhalgh of the University of Oxford said that wearing a well-fitting mask indoors “definitely protects other people from one’s own germs”, with studies highlighting that it reduces viral emissions from coughing and sneezing about 20-fold.

“It would also be expected to protect the wearer to some extent (for example by reducing the amount of virus that you breathe in, thereby producing an asymptomatic or mild illness rather than a severe one),” she said.

“If you do wear a mask, make sure it doesn’t have any gaps round the side, otherwise it is much less effective.”

Researchers from Yale University have also released results from a randomised controlled trial that took place in 600 villages in Bangladesh. Residents in some villages were given surgical masks, others received cloth masks.

Jason Abaluck, lead researcher on the study, said: “In surgical mask villages, we saw a 12% reduction in Covid overall and a 35% reduction among those aged 60 plus.”

The latest ONS report is based on its regular infection survey, which continually swabs a representative sample of households to track coronavirus. Around 170,000 people were tested in the fortnight to September 11, and about one in 90 tested positive.

The report found that people who had received one or two doses of a vaccine were less likely to test positive than those who were unvaccinated. People who were previously infected with coronavirus were also less likely to test positive than those with no previous Covid-19 infection.

Younger age groups were also more likely to test positive than those who reported socially distanced contact with 11 or more people aged 18 to 69 outside their households.

People living in a household of three or more were also more likely to test positive.