Saturday, October 1

The return of the mandatory outdoor mask, an unpopular measure without scientific support

The triggering of infections by the omicron variant has clouded what was to be the first Christmas after the vaccination campaign, with 90% of the target population already fully vaccinated, a rebound of first doses of those who had not been still vaccinated but they already wanted to do it pushed by the COVID passport, and even health personnel, teachers and people over 60 receiving the third dose.

What were to be the Christmases that were most similar to a return to a certain normality have been exacerbated by the high transmissibility of omicron, being the return of the mandatory nature of the mask outdoors, banished six months ago, the measure with the greatest impact on the population between the announced by Pedro Sánchez at the conference of presidents, the previous step – there is the possibility of backing down – to announce it in the Council of Ministers and that it enters into force. Especially since at this point in the pandemic it already seemed assumed that, like the disinfection of sidewalks, it was a rather mild measure to curb transmission.

One out of every thousand infections

The scientific literature has been filled with studies on the use of the mask outdoors and its effectiveness in preventing infections. In Ireland, of the 232,164 cases of infections detected during the first twelve months of the pandemic, it was determined that only 262 took place outdoors, 0.1% of the totalAccording to the Health Protection Vigilancai Center (HPSC), although there are 20% of cases of community transmission in which the source of the contagion was unknown. In the same country, Mike Weed, professor at the University of Canterbury, studied 27,000 positive cases concluding that outdoor broadcast “was negligible”.

Much earlier, in May 2020, China studied 1,245 cases of contagion and found that only two of them occurred outdoors and among people without a mask. Another subsequent study in Wuhan with more than 7,000 infected was able to determine the number of infected outdoors in a single person.

A scenario supported by several epidemiologists throughout the pandemic, with the rapid dispersal of viral particles in the open air as a common argument and suggesting that it would make sense limiting it to vulnerable populations or in environments with high human concentration, something that did not happen in Spain, where it was so mandatory to use it in a crowded square as to walk alone through the mountains.

In Spain it has remained mandatory in certain environments, such as sporting events, where it could be difficult to maintain a safe distance at all times. Still macro outbreaks are not known to have occurred outdoors.

On the other hand, the mandatory nature of the mask outdoors It can also serve to discourage meetings in these spaces and redirect them indoors, much more fertile territories for contagions, since there will be no difference compared to being outdoors, and in the case of hospitality, logically it is allowed to be without a mask at least while it is being consumed, being normal in practice to spend all the time there without it.

Perhaps it was more reasonable to reinforce its obligation in environments of high human concentration and continue to exempt it in normal situations. Especially in one of the countries where a higher percentage of citizens have come to be vaccinated.