One of the questions many of us are asking as the restrictions ease
Should I keep wearing a mask?
There will be some industries and roles that do require the employee to keep wearing a mask while they are at work and those workers will have no choice. However, in our personal lives, we will have a choice to make. For some people with weakened immune systems and those who have previously been on shielding lists for health reasons, not wearing a mask in public is not something they really have to consider.
It may not be mandatory, but “should I keep wearing a mask?” is what people are asking. Most people do not enjoy wearing a mask, anyone who wears glasses will agree, and therefore as soon as restrictions alleviate, people will have the freedom to choose not to for their own comfort. However, there appears to be plenty of scientists and medically trained people that are advising that for the near foreseeable future, we should keep wearing masks while the rates of Covid-19 are still at the levels they are.
Whatever stance you take on wearing a mask, it will be a very personal one soon
Covid-19 and the current threat
Currently the Delta variant is the fastest spreading variant of Covid-19 with the biggest risk to the UK. Public Health England (PHE) has previously published analysis showing that one vaccine dose is 17% less effective at preventing symptomatic illness from the Delta variant, compared to Alpha, but there is only a small difference after 2 doses.
The latest analysis suggests:
- The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalisation after 2 doses
- The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalisation after 2 doses
Further work and studies are underway to establish the level of protection against mortality from the Delta variant. The above is comparable to the vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation from the Alpha Variant. Unfortunately, there is a real possibility we could see another new variant at any time; natural mutation is part of the natural way these viruses survive and thrive.
It is also being questioned that if we do not change the rules now, in the hotter summer period, when do we? Covid-19 will certainly have the upper hand in the colder winter months
When should we consider wearing a mask?
Before Step 4 of the Roadmap, the rules for the general public are to wear a mask in all indoor public places. Some scientists and medically trained people are asking the nation to continue wearing a mask in indoor public places, despite the change in rules. This certainly adds some weight to why we should consider continuing to wear a mask.
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, admits that with the changes coming into effect, Covid-19 cases could soon rise above 100,000 a day. There will be many establishments that will heed this advice and continue to ask or enforce that all visitors wear a mask, so it is advisable to always keep a mask on your person.
Wearing a mask will soon not be mandatory. Choosing to keep wearing a mask would not necessarily mean wearing a mask all the time to be effective. As we know, open spaces remove some of the risk of spreading Covid-19. Wearing a mask may not be necessary when you are outside or anywhere by yourself away from others, or with people who live in your household. Wearing a mask can help provide protection from Covid-19 in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
If you are fully vaccinated and have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may need to keep wearing a mask to take steps to protect yourself.
I think the main question here is, can you tell in a crowded place who is vaccinated and who isn’t, and do you know who may be carrying it to pass on?
Where are we with heard immunity?
What is herd immunity?
Herd immunity is where enough people in the population acquire immunity either through vaccination or infection that new infections no longer spark big outbreaks. It does not mean that we would not see any new infections, it does mean an end to the high rate of infections that we have seen so far.
The goal of reaching UK population-wide herd immunity is much closer than ever before, but we still have some way to go in reaching it. Half of the UK population have received two doses of one of the vaccines. The day when enough people are protected (either through jabs or prior infection) that the epidemic is minimised may not be far off, but until then we still need to think about protecting ourselves and those around us.
Will wearing a face mask prevent us from reaching heard immunity quicker?
No one knows a definitive answer to that, but it is certainly an answer that will naturally come with time as wearing a mask will soon not be mandatory by law in the UK.
There are undoubtedly some dangers ahead with not wearing masks. The Government’s scientific advisers noted recently: “There is significant risk in allowing prevalence to rise, even if hospitalisations and deaths are kept low by vaccination.” The Delta variant is changing the realisation of reaching heard immunity, but there is no doubt that every vaccination will still have a huge impact on getting that step closer each day.
While we are not at the recommended level of safe heard immunity many scientists and professionals are advising we continue to keep wearing masks for our own protection and to protect those around us.
There is no right or wrong answer
When we are given a choice about wearing a mask, everyone will have something different to say. With UK law changing to masks no longer being mandatory, it is a personal choice we all must make. Each of us are accountable for our own actions and the choices we make unless our employers have their own rules. Outside of a work environment we can choose to wear a mask, or we can choose not to wear a mask. This can be anywhere, in any situation, inside or outside and at any time.
We cannot forget that many are in roles where it will still be mandatory to continue to wear a mask for the foreseeable future. Many in the health and adult social care sector will continue to wear full PPE. The Care Quality Commission determine that care workers employed by regulated care providers must wear masks. As Trinity Homecare is regulated by the CQC, this means all visiting TrinityCarers must wear full PPE.