Homemade masks: authorities change their advice

Authorities appear to be changing their advice over the sense in wearing face masks, even the homemade variety.

Indeed comments made to journalists by minister of health Marta Temida last night suggest our emergeance from lockdown could be dependent on them.

She said that the government is “looking at a possible alteration – possible – of the context in which a necessity for wider social circulation could be adequately more protected with a mask”.

Try turning that into ‘normal speak’, and you have pretty much what Italian virologist Massimo Celementi has been telling Italian newspaper La Stampa: “A return to normal life will have to take some rules into account, very possibly applicable even during summer. People could be able to go to the beach, but always wearing masks. Hugs? It will be better to avoid these for some months until the virus ‘disappears’” he said.

Back facing battalions of microphones in Lisbon, Marta Temido admitted that “decisions have to be made according to the evolution of scientific knowledge”.

“What we decide today is with great evidence that technicians give us but we have to have sufficient adaptability”, she said.

This could be a reference to the glaring shortage of ‘clinical masks’ and their need to be channeled through to the medical community and all those working in healthcare – leaving the wider population largely under supplies – or deciding to use homemade ‘fabric’ masks.

And this is where CEMP (the Portuguese Council for Medical Schools) has come in.

CEMP announced yesterday (Sunday) that the use of homemade (fabric) masks “showed satisfactory efficiency in terms of capacity of protection for the user of 50-85%”.

That’s a long way from the original advice from authorities who stressed non-surgical masks offered negligible protectio.

CEMP’s thinking suggests that fabric masks are only “slightly less efficient” than surgical masks when it comes to protecting others from any infection by the user.

In its study entitled “Argumentation and scientific evidence for the generalised use of masks by the Portuguese population”, CEMP concluded that “international scientific studies show agreement in recommending the generalised use of masks by the population as a measure of controlling the transmission of respiratory infections, reducing the risk of contagion, the level of attack and potentially reducing the average number of infections”.

Graphs cited by other ‘experts’ studying this pandemic have also shown the low level of propagation in countries where populations are used to wearing facemasks whenever they get so much as a cold.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com