Information surrounding the transmission and spread of COVID-19 can sometimes seem confusing, and figuring out how to protect yourself can feel overwhelming. A comprehensive report published Monday in The Lancet compiled evidence-based guidance based on 172 studies and available data to help clarify risk-reduction recommendations like face masks, social distancing measures and eye protection.
The findings show that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is reduced by 82% when a physical distance of one meter is maintained. Every additional one meter of separation more than doubled the protection.
The study also found that masks and respirators reduced the risk of infection by 85%. N95 masks, which have a respirator function that filters airborne particles, were 96% effective, compared with other masks, which were 77% effective. Additionally, eye protection resulted in a 78% reduction in infection.
The study recommends universal mask-wearing and maintaining a distance of one meter from others, but stresses that none of these practices offer complete protection.
Co-author Dr. Derek Chu, Assistant Professor at McMaster University, warns in a press release that "wearing a mask is not an alternative to physical distancing, eye protection or basic measures such as hand hygiene, but might add an extra layer of protection."
The authors hope the results of their study can help offer actionable advice during this time.
"Governments and the public health community can use our results to give clear advice for community settings and healthcare workers on these protective measures to reduce infection risk," said Holger Schünemann, a co-leader of the study and professor from McMaster University, in a press release.