Since the mandatory introduction of face masks in shops across England back in July, there has been much discussion over the decision to formally implement this practice so late in the process. But there is good reason to follow this advice, because I can personally say from experience that it does have an effect .

In 2004, I was involved in a randomised control study which proved the reduction of droplet travel using dye to colour saliva for surgeons performing ophthalmic procedures and less contamination of the surgical site. Drawing on this knowledge, I have long been endorsing the use of face masks within enclosed public spaces to protect others, until the pandemic is over.

Whilst the delay in implementing mandatory use of face masks continues to be questioned, I am in no doubt that it is still extremely important to wear a mask whenever you are in a close contact situation. 

Here are 6 reasons why:

1) Coronavirus cases are rising – We know there is still significant infection present in the population. This is evidenced by recent local spikes, and generally rising numbers of cases in the UK

2) Vulnerable people are still at risk – There are people still in the population at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying if exposed to the infection. 

3) Masks do lower the risk of transmission – Science proves that masks do help to reduce the risk of transmission of virus from nose and mouth, caused by sneezing, coughing or talking,

4) Public spaces are higher risk – Enclosed public spaces where people mix, and where common surfaces are touched are the most risky areas. It’s important therefore to remain vigilant whenever you are in these environments.

4) Asymptomatic people could be infective – People can have the infection and be asymptomatic. Even if they do become symptomatic they can be asymptomatic and infective early on (i.e. have no knowledge of being ill during illness development) 

5) Masks help delay transmission infection – Lots of conversations about face masks are very black and white, but it’s not a simple as that when it comes to managing pandemics. We cannot eliminate the virus completely, but we can attempt to delay the infection transmission while effective modes of vaccination and detection are being developed. Progress is being made towards quicker tests, which will provide results in a matter of minutes, but we aren’t quite there yet.

6) Masks help businesses to reopen and stay open – As new social distancing measures come into force from Monday, there is natural concern that businesses could be next in line if further restrictions are necessary. Keeping the virus to a minimal level by wearing face masks, maintaining hygiene practices and abiding by social distancing will allow companies and the economy to continue to remain open, reduce the risk of a repeat lockdown, and help prevent further economic misery.