Research conducted by the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has found that high grade masks known as FFP3 are effective in protecting against the transmission of COVID-19 by up to 100%.
High grade protection
Interest in the study grew after experts noticed during the first wave of the pandemic that hospital staff were unable to avoid catching the virus despite taking all the measures necessary. It wasn't until December of last year, right before the explosive second wave ravaged the UK, that hospital managers in Cambridge made the decision to upgrade to face coverings offering greater protection.
Although surgical masks are fluid resistant, they are relatively too loose-fitting and flimsy to fully protect against airborne micro particles that can linger in the air. In contrast, FFP3 masks are made to appropriately fit the protected area of the face while also specifically designed to filter out aerosols.
Dr Mike Weekes, of Cambridge University NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust, who also worked on the study, said that:
[The work gives] some real world evidence that FFP3 masks are actually effective and more effective than the surgical masks. Clearly, it's a relatively small study in one trust and so we need to see these findings replicated elsewhere.
But given the difference in the results that we've seen, as a sort of precautionary principle effect, what we should be thinking about is changing to use FFP3 masks for anyone caring for a patient with coronavirus.
Protecting medical staff
As a result of the positive results found from the research, major medical professional bodies such as the British Medical Association are campaigning for FFP3 masks to be issued more widely. The appeal for higher standards of protection for medical staff has been made aware to the newly appointed Health Secretary, Sajid Javid in an open letter that read:
This has important implications for healthcare worker protection as the UK copes with what is hopefully an 'exit wave,' as well as trying to reduce the massive backlog of other work whilst coping with inevitable staff sickness and isolation.