Face masks do NOT protect the carrier of coronavirus, Danish study finds

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A large Danish study suggests that face masks may offer the wearer only limited protection against COVID-19 infection.

The researchers found that there was no statistically significant difference in the number of people who contacted the virus in a group wearing masks in public versus a group who did not.

The team, at the University Hospital in Copenhagen, said the findings should not be used to argue against their widespread use, as the masks prevent people from infecting others.

It comes just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidelines, saying masks protect the wearer as much as those around them.

A new study from Denmark found that after one month, 1.8% of a group wearing masks had been infected with the virus and 2.1% in the unmasked group had tested positive for COVID-19. Pictured: People wait to be tested for coronavirus at the Arena Nord in Frederikshavn, North Jutland, Denmark in November 2020

The study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was carried out in April and May when Danish authorities recommended against wearing a face covering.

During this period, only around 2% of Denmark’s population had contracted the coronavirus, less than several other European countries such as Spain and Italy.

The team recruited more than 6,000 adults and divided them into two groups: one wearing surgical masks in public blankets and a control group who did not.

The results showed that after one month, 1.8% of people wearing masks had been infected with the virus.

By comparison, 2.1% of people in the unmasked group had tested positive for COVID-19.

The difference between the two groups is not statistically significant.

“The study does not confirm the expected halving of the risk of infection for people wearing face masks,” the authors wrote in a press release.

“The results could indicate a more moderate degree of protection from 15 to 20 [percent], however, the study could not rule out that face masks do not offer any protection ”.

Previous studies have concluded similar results, claiming that masks offer only limited protection for the wearer, but can significantly reduce the risk to others if the wearer is infected, even if they have no symptom.

Preventing the spread to others is known as source control.

But some experts disagree and say these are weaknesses for the study, such as the authors not independently verifying the use of the masks or that users wore them correctly.

“There is no question that masks work like source control,” wrote Dr. Thomas Frieden, former CDC director, in an op-ed.

“The question this study was designed to answer is: do they work as personal protection? An N95 mask is better than a surgical mask. A surgical mask is better than most fabric masks. A cloth mask is better than nothing.

Last week, the CDC updated its guidelines indicating that masks prevent wearers from contracting COVID-19, not just those around them.

Health officials said the fabric masks prevent the wearer from exhaling droplets and also provide “filtration for personal protection” by preventing droplets from reaching others.

The new study team says the results “should not be used to conclude that a recommendation for everyone to wear masks in the community would not be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infections,” because the trial did not test the role of masks in controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection at the source ”.

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