Fingers crossed; the world might finally be turning the corner with the COVID-19 pandemic. But despite the pandemic potentially becoming an endemic in the long term, we may see changes that were considered strange before COVID become the new normal.
One of those changes, is masks. Before COVID-19, public mask wearing was accepted in East Asian countries and baffling to the west. Now, mask wearing is a commonplace around the globe. At the time of writing, mask wearing is mandatory in public indoor spaces in most parts of Australia but one day this will change. What will happen to the use of masks beyond the COVID-19 pandemic?
There will always be a time and place for masks
Even during the times where restrictions have relaxed, masks have still been mandatory in high-risk infection places and could still mandatory in these areas for some time:
- Hospitals have always been known for their high risk of infection. Mask wearing of staff, patients and visitors could reduce the spread of other diseases than just COVID-19. Potentially reducing hospital-acquired infections and reducing the number of nights patients stay in hospital.
- Airports and aeroplanes. Airports are high-traffic areas and often the ground-zero for new infections. Here, we see people from all walks of life mingling and potentially spreading infections to others who have different levels of immunity. Aeroplanes on the other hand, are confined spaces for the duration of the flight. Whilst the air in planes is filtered, they still pose a high risk for spreading infections. Mask wearing could prevent the spread of any infection amongst passengers throughout the flight.
- Aged care houses our most elderly and vulnerable citizens who are very prone to infections and often have underlying health conditions. COVID-19 has a much higher mortality for the elderly compared to the younger population. Mask wearing amongst staff and visitors can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections in aged-care, making life better for the residents and reducing the workload of sick residents for staff.
- Manufacturing areas like food and pharmaceuticals that manufacture clean and sterile products may continue the use of mask wearing in their facilities. Even not for COVID-19, mask wearing prevents staff breathing on products like food and medical devices and causing a contamination. Contamination in manufacturing can by costly for companies and impact efficiency.
Public awareness of effective masks
Shortages of PPE at the start of the pandemic lead to an explosion in the number of fraudulent medical products like masks and members of the public began creating their own unvalidated masks. As the pandemic progresses, the public’s awareness of effective masks is increasing.
Studies confirm that the following types of masks are most effective in this order:
- N95 Masks
- Surgical masks
- Cloth Masks
There is even different levels of protection in surgical masks. Increased public awareness may see surgical masks as the preferred mask for wearers by the public even when mask wearing is no longer mandatory.
The rise in N95 respirators
N95 respirators are the preferred masks amongst healthcare workers and known for their higher efficacy against COVID-19 protection compared to surgical masks. Post-COVID we may see a consistent use of N95 respirators, now, that we know their effectiveness, especially in hospitals and aged care.
Increase in air purification
In another attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a lot of businesses and workplaces have invested in efficient air purification throughout the pandemic. Offices, classrooms and entertainment venues will continue to value air purification as it prevents the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases, even when masks are removed.
Generalised acceptance of mask wearing in the West
Public mask wearing in Western countries which was once frowned upon is now a commonplace. Regardless of their reasons, people may choose to wear masks out in public and their implementation may come a lot quicker in the event of another pandemic.
Westlab has a wide range of medical and scientific supplies including masks. Speak to a consultant who can recommend you the best materials to suit your businesses needs. Contact us today.