Unfortunately, the masking efforts during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic did not help prevent the spread of the disease. This is according to a new scientific review of 78 randomized trials on the effectiveness of physical interventions against respiratory viruses.

The study published by Cochrane Library late last month sought to assess the effectiveness of physical interventions in interrupting or reducing the spread of acute respiratory viruses. The prevention measures examined included screening at entry ports, isolation, quarantine, physical distancing and using personal protective equipment, such as face masks, glasses and others.

Six of the new trials included in the meta-analysis were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Four ongoing studies evaluating masks concurrent with the coronavirus pandemic were also analyzed for the extensive review.

"There is uncertainty about the effects of face masks. The low to moderate certainty of evidence means our confidence in the effect estimate is limited, and that the true effect may be different from the observed estimate of the effect," the study authors wrote.

"The pooled results ... did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks. There were no clear differences between the use of medical/surgical masks compared with N95/P2 respirators in healthcare workers when used in routine care to reduce respiratory viral infection," they added.

The research findings seemingly cast doubts on the flip-flopping recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which included masking as an essential means to prevent COVID-19 transmission, as per the National Review magazine.

It can be noted that at the start of the global pandemic in March 2020, the CDC said face masks were not essential in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, it quickly changed its stance a month later, saying masks were “the most important” and “powerful” tools to use amid the global crisis.

The CDC and many experts continue to recommend masking as a means of protection from Covid and other respiratory viruses. However, the new review may affect the perception of the public on the preventive measure.

But for Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, the recent study has a key limitation. He pointed out that since the authors relied on randomized trials, the findings may be far from what population-based studies on masks found in “real-world” settings,” the New York Post reported.

Face Mask and COVID-19
Health authorities recommend that people wear face masks or coverings when going outside amid the COVID-19 pandemic to help reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the coronavirus. Pixabay