Hong Kong, June 24 2020 - You see billions of people around the world wearing face masks to avoid Covid-19, but did you realise that countries like Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and China and some other South-East Asian countries controlled the coronavirus from creating a mayhem the way it has done in the US, Brazil and now in India?
The credit to a great extent goes to an early interest and adoption of face masks, which is considered a hygiene etiquette in several countries, report researchers.
The team from the Chinese University of Hong Kong shared findings from their analysis of how public interest in face masks may have affected the severity of Covid-19 epidemics and, potentially, contained the outbreak in 42 countries on six continents.
In "COVID-19 and Public Interest in Face Mask Use", researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong shared findings from their analysis of how public interest in face masks may have affected the severity of Covid-19 epidemics and potentially contained the outbreak in 42 countries in 6 continents.
"In many Asian countries like China and Japan, the use of face masks in this pandemic is ubiquitous and is considered as a hygiene etiquette, whereas in many western countries, its use in the public is less common," the researchers documented in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
There was a clear negative correlation between the awareness or general acceptance of wearing a face mask and its infection rates.
"One classic example is seen in Hong Kong. Despite [Hong Kong's] proximity to mainland China, its infection rate of Covid-19 is generally modest with only 1,110 cases to-date. This correlates with an almost ubiquitous use of face masks in the city (up to 98.8 percent by respondents in a survey)," said Sunny Wong, associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Similar patterns are seen in other Asian areas, such as Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia.
To date, there are more than two million cases in the US and more than one million cases in Brazil, with India fast reaching towards half a million cases.
While the authors acknowledge that face masks are seen as important in slowing the rise of COVID-19 infections, it is difficult to assess whether it is more effective than hand washing or social distancing alone.
As cities in the US and elsewhere put reopening plans into effect, the use of face masks should be encouraged.
"Face masks can help slow the spread of COVID-19, and have a relatively low cost compared to the health resources and death toll associated with the pandemic," said Dr Wong.
"We believe that face mask use, hand washing and social distancing are all important components of the non-pharmaceutical measures against Covid-19", the authors wrote.