Edi medic sets up Insta account advocating use of masks in public
They are calling on other medics to take up face-covering in public and encourage others to do the same
Inspired by the #Masks4all movement, a group of medical students from universities across the UK have set up an Instagram page advocating for the use of cloth face-coverings in public, in addition to hygiene and social distancing measures.
Behind the page are Sam Bresland from Edinburgh University, Jamie Ho from Cambridge University, Diya Gokul from Liverpool University, and Catherine Dominic from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.
The page’s bio explains that they are seeking to encourage medical students to “take up face-covering in public, and to advocate that others do the same”. Instagram users are invited to send in their mask pictures via email.
Sam, one of the members of the team behind the account, is a 5th year medical student who also helped set up an initiative to babysit the children of NHS workers on a voluntary basis while they are at work, as a way of helping them out amongst the coronavirus pandemic.
In the first post on the page, Sam said: “I believe that face-covering has an important role to play in keeping the r0 value low, and that if medical students as a community can get behind it as a practice then we can add our weight to the pro-mask argument and influence uptake by the general public.
“If the government declare it mandatory next week then fair play, we can just post fun mask pics here instead.”
Last week the Scottish Government made recommendations that people should wear face masks when visiting enclosed spaces, and on the 30th April, Boris Johnson stated that face masks will be “useful” when lockdown measures are peeled back. Worldwide there are now over 60 countries whose governments recommend (some even mandate) the use of face masks in public spaces.
In terms of the rationale behind the use of face masks, Sam said: “Their usefulness lies not so much in protecting the wearer as an FFP3 or N95 mask would, but in protecting our communities from a wearer who is either asymptomatic, or has yet to present with symptoms.” He continued: “There is evidence that a cloth over the mouth can curb emission of droplets. The concept is best represented by this image…”
He continued: “If we all masked up, that could have a big impact on lowering the R value – the virus’ reproductive rate – which could contribute to getting society back to a relative normality. However, we don’t want to divert the PPE supply away from key workers, which is why making or buying a cloth face-covering is recommended.”
“The WHO reports “limited evidence” to support our mission. Why is this, you ask? Well, up until this point much of the research has been focused on masks as a measure to protect the wearer, so when it is reported that the evidence for public face-covering is weak, that is actually a weakness due to an absence of evidence, rather than an evidence of absence.”
He added: “It is not that scientists have done research and found conflicting evidence against public mask use, but rather that the research is ongoing.”
Sam noted that yesterday, the Royal Society DELVE Initiative, a committee that feeds into SAGE (the collection of scientists that advise the UK government), published a report recommending the use of face masks. “So basically,” Sam explained, “the UK is waiting to see what the government’s call on facemasks is after SAGE have reviewed DELVE’s report.”
Sam said: “We believe that we as a community are well placed to advocate and promote public face-covering. If the government leaves it open to the public to make their own choices on mask use then we will work to raise the profile of face-covering, and if masks are mandatory by the end of the week then we can just post fun mask pics instead.”
For those who are still skeptical, Sam recommends this FAQ, and for those who are keen to get involved, why wait? “You don’t even have to buy a mask”, Sam said, “Here’s the US Surgeon General making a face mask out of a t-shirt and elastic bands.”
“To wear a mask is an act of altruism and solidarity, to look after others. I protect you, you protect me” the Edinburgh medical student concluded.
Medics can tweet their pic with #maskmedic and a caption of their name, year of study, university, and why they think masks are important, and @mask_medics will post it and give them a follow! Alternately, they can fill in the google form and email pics to [email protected]