Prof Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society in the UK said that in order for us to tackle coronavirus effectively everyone should wear face masks whenever they get outside of their house. He also said that not wearing a face mask should be treated the same way as drunk driving or not wearing a seat-belt.
Prof. Ramakrishnan, an Indian-American-British biologist, shared a Nobel Prize with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada Yonath in Chemistry in 2009. He said that the UK is behind many countries in wearing face coverings as there are no clear guidelines and no clear policies for the public.
The President of Royal society said that people in the UK are following hand washing and physical distancing but are skeptical about face masks. The evidence of this can be clearly seen in public transports, where it is mandatory to wear face masks, but people are ignoring it there too. Face masks do not only protect a single person but it protects everyone.
Prof. Ramakrishnan was speaking as National academy of sciences of UK published two reports on the topic of the effectiveness of wearing masks. The first report is an update on the previous work performed by Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) which is a group arranged by royal society, the report revealed that wearing masks will not only limit the risk of transmission but it will also provide benefits for the wearer and also the people around him.
The other report published by the Royal Society together with the British Academy indicated how far the UK is lagging behind other countries. The research showed that at the end of April acceptance of mask-wearing in the UK was 25%, Italy had an acceptance of 83.4%, United States 65.8% and Spain had an acceptance of 63.8%.
Ramakrishnan added that wearing masks didn’t bother the Italians, the French, or the Spanish, as none of them were used to this before the pandemic. People should treat it as a new part of their clothing and it will be a very small price to pay for the economy to keep functioning and also to limit the spread of the virus.
The experts at the scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) have mixed feelings regarding the wearing of face masks. There are some suggestions that face coverings didn’t slow the spread in Asian countries, and that masks may give a wrong sense of security. But there is an agreement on the fact that the masks may reduce the risk of transmission of the virus from an infected person.
What the government must do in this situation? Well according to Prof. Ramakrishnan the government must get a strong and clear message to the public that they should remain two meters apart and wear masks when they are in crowded places.
The government has suggested that face masks do not need to be hospital-standard they can be made from cloth at home. The government guidelines at present are that wearing face masks in public transport is compulsory, people going to shops have a choice, if they think social distancing is not possible then they should definitely wear it otherwise, they may opt not to.
People should start trusting the experts and wear face masks as it will not only protect them from the virus but will also keep the economy running.