Mandatory Face mask
(Photo : Mohammad Hassan from Pixabay)

The number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in Austria dropped from 90 to 10 cases per one million people, two weeks after the government required everyone to wear a face mask on April 6. 

According to Daily Mail, "Austria seemingly managed to reverse its crisis by making masks compulsory on April 6, following a spike in infections in late March."

This contradicted what the United Kingdom (UK) government told its citizens. They are denying that masks are effective if used by the general public. 

However, Public Health England (PHE) says wearing a mask could spread the virus. It causes people to touch their face and increases the chances of a person acquiring the virus. 

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PHE added, "People also wear them for much longer than they are designed, causing them to become moist, unsanitary and an ideal environment for bugs to breed in."

Fast action saves lives

This isn't the case in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. As two of the first countries to make masks compulsory in Europe, they now enjoy a small infection rate per capita. 

Daily Mail said, "63 Czechs per 100,000 has been infected and less than two per 100,000 have died from the virus." It's lower in Slovakia, "21 per 100,000 people have caught it and just 0.2 per 100,000 have succumbed to the illness."

In contrast, 182 out of 100,000 British have been infected, while 25 per 100,000 have died because of COVID-19.

"The big mistake in the US and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren't wearing masks," said George Gao, the director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, to Telegraph.

Gao added, "This virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact. Droplets play a very important role - you've got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth."

COVID-19 spreads quickly because these droplets can stay in the air and travel far enough. USA Today cited a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which revealed that "liquid droplets from sneezes, coughs and just exhaling can travel more than 26 feet and linger in the air for minutes."

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How a face mask works

A face mask alone does not stop the spread of the disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "surgical masks do not stop people from catching coronavirus."

Christine Francis, a consultant from WHO's Infection Prevention and Control said, "you must combine with hand hygiene and other preventive measures." It must be worn at all times if the person has a cough, fever, or difficulty breathing.

The WHO added, "Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water."

Countries have seen varying degrees of success with face masks. 40 days since the 100th case of COVID-19, US, Italy and Spain have over 100,000 COVID-19-positive cases. The number of cases didn't slow down nor plateau because they didn't wear masks to slow down the spread.

Meanwhile, Asian countries that enforced wearing face masks reported fewer cases. Hong Kong and Singapore has less than 1,000, while Japan has almost 3,000. South Korea has almost 10,000 cases, but the spread nearly plateaued at the 15th day until the 40th.

Although China ranked fourth place at almost 100,000, the country also plateaued on the 20th day because they wore face masks.