As concerns about an expansion of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic crop up, a new study notes that the “universal adoption” of face masks could help bring down the number of infections and prevent additional waves.
The research, conducted by the U.K.’s University of Cambridge and University of Greenwich, notes that lockdowns, while important to slowing the spread of COVID-19, are not enough to slow the transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2. Wearing face masks, even homemade ones, is paramount to stopping the spread.
“Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Richard Stutt, in a statement.
“If widespread face mask use by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and reopening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine,” Dr. Stutt added.
In the study, the researchers found that the reproduction rate (R-value) fell in all modeling scenarios where routine face mask wearing was adhered to by 50 percent or more of the population, lowering the R-value to less than 1.
“Viral spread reduced further as more people adopted masks when in public,” the statement added. “100 [percent] mask adoption combined with on/off lockdowns prevented any further disease resurgence for the 18 months required for a possible vaccine.”
The researchers looked at various types of face masks and concluded that homemade masks – those made from cotton T-shirts or dishcloths – were “90 percent effective at preventing transmission.”
“There is a common perception that wearing a face mask means you consider others a danger,” said University of Greenwich professor and study co-author, John Colvin. “In fact, by wearing a mask you are primarily protecting others from yourself.”
“Cultural and even political issues may stop people wearing face masks, so the message needs to be clear: my mask protects you, your mask protects me,” Colvin added.
More than 290,000 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the U.K., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That has resulted in the deaths of more than 41,000 U.K. citizens.
The research was published in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society A” journal on Wednesday.
The study comes nearly a month after a similar study was conducted that found the number of cases could be cut significantly if “(near) universal masking” is adopted.
Last week, the World Health Organization updated its guidance to recommend that governments around the world encourage the widespread use of fabric face masks while in public settings.
Initially, the WHO advised only those who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or are caring for someone infected with the novel virus to wear a face mask. The WHO’s new recommendations also lag behind those from other top health agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In April, the CDC updated its guidelines to recommend all Americans wear cloth face coverings while in public, “especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
As of Thursday morning, more than 7.4 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 2 million of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.
Fox News’ Madeline Farber contributed to this story.