Wear a mask to protect me as well as you | Letters

Hilary Cashman and Bill Sharp urge the UK to adopt the wearing of masks to stop the spread of coronavirus

The debate about face masks for community use (Coronavirus: should everyone be wearing face masks?, 15 April) has been hampered by British cultural blinkers. Masks have been portrayed as an ineffective attempt at self-protection, whereas mask-wearing in Japan and South Korea has always been altruistic – if you are coughing or sneezing, you wear a mask to protect others.

We should have adopted this early in the pandemic, along with the graceful and courteous practice of bowing instead of shaking hands. Clinical masks should be kept for health workers, but sewing machines are whirring in living rooms all over the UK to provide fabric masks for community use when the lockdown is lifted. “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.”
Hilary Cashman
Norton, Stockton-on-Tees

• Dr Louis B Quesnel states that it is untrue to say the general wearing of masks has no part to play in ending the epidemic (Letters, 14 April). Some may believe otherwise because they look at the question the wrong way round. Masks can add a useful degree of protection to the wearer, but more importantly they protect everyone else from asymptomatic wearers who might spread the virus unknowingly.

There’s a whole movement to get masks taken more seriously. It uses the hashtag #Masks4All. There are some pretty persuasive videos.

Austria insists on masks in food shops, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia insist on masks everywhere in public. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also reconsidered its stance “in light of new evidence”. We should reconsider too. So as not to take masks away from frontline workers, companies and those currently with spare time at home should be making them now in preparation for easing the lockdown – as they did in the Czech Republic.

If we all wore masks in public after lockdown ends, they’d catch most of any virus we may be shedding – something to bear in mind when you watch the recent video model of a cough in a supermarket, with the far-reaching spread of virus particles and their six-minute linger time.

General mask-wearing would make it extremely difficult for the virus to spread. Which effectively gives us the same effect as “herd immunity” – but without the collateral deaths seemingly factored in when herd immunity was previously suggested.
Bill Sharp
Chichester, West Sussex

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