Physical distancing, masks, and eye protection can help prevent COVID-19

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In a new review study, researchers found that physical distancing of two meters or more to prevent person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.

Face masks and eye protection decrease the risk of infection, too.

The new study was commissioned by the World Health Organization.

The research was led by McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

The team says physical distancing likely results in a large reduction of COVID-19.

Although the direct evidence is limited, the use of masks in the community provides protection, and possibly N95 or similar respirators are worn by health-care workers suggest greater protection than other face masks.

Eye protection may provide additional benefits.

In the study, the team sought direct evidence on COVID-19 and indirect evidence on related coronaviruses causative of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

The team identified no randomized control studies addressing the three coronaviruses but 44 relevant comparative studies in health-care and non-health-care (community) settings across 16 countries and six continents from inception to early May 2020.

The authors noted more global, collaborative, well-conducted studies of different personal protective strategies are needed.

For masks, large randomized trials are underway and are urgently needed.

The team says there is an urgent need for all caregivers in health-care settings and non-health-care settings to have equitable access to these simple personal protective measures, which means scaling up production and consideration about repurposing manufacturing.

However, although distancing, face masks, and eye protection were each highly protective, none made individuals totally impervious from infection and so, basic measures such as hand hygiene are also essential to curtail the current COVID-19 pandemic and future waves.

The lead author of the study is Holger Schünemann, professor of the departments of health research methods, evidence, and impact, and medicine at McMaster.

The study is published in The Lancet.

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