The Sunday Telegraph

Masks do little to curb spread, says scientist

- By Justin Stoneman

STANDARD face coverings are just “comfort blankets”, which do little to reduce the spread of Covid particles, a scientist advising Sage on ventilatio­n has said.

Dr Colin Axon, who has advised the Government on minimising the risk of crossinfec­tion in supermarke­ts, accused medics of presenting a “cartoonish” view of how tiny particles travel through the air.

He warned some cloth masks have gaps which are invisible to the naked eye, but are 500,000 times the size of viral Covid particles.

“An imperfect analogy would be to imagine marbles fired at builders’ scaffoldin­g – some might hit a pole and rebound but most will fly through,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.

The mask debate has been reignited this week after the Government published Freedom Day guidance recommendi­ng their continued use. It led to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, enforcing their continued use on London transport.

Dr Axon said the public need to be offered a wider view of the science behind face masks, rather than the “partial view” of informatio­n being pushed by medics over their effectiven­ess.

“Medics have this cartoonish view of how particles move through the air – it’s not their fault, it’s not their domain,” he said.

“Once a particle is not on a biological surface it is no longer a biomedical issue, it is simply about physics. The public has only a partial view of the story if informatio­n only comes from one type of source.”

Dr Axon, Brunel University’s senior lecturer in engineerin­g, said that the true mechanisms involved are best evaluated through science.

“When the particle enters another body it returns to a biomedical issue, but the mask debate is about the particle journey,” he said. “Masks can catch droplets and sputum from a cough, but what is important is that Sars CoV-2 is mostly distribute­d by tiny aerosols.”

Dr Axon said that medics were “unable to comprehend” the minuscule elements at play, adding: “A Covid particle is roughly 100 nanometres – material gaps in blue surgical masks are up to 1,000 times that size; cloth-mask gaps can be 500,000 times that size.”

Dr Axon, whose report on ventilatio­n in supermarke­ts was used by both Nervtag and Sage, says that medics “cannot have it both ways” over asymptomat­ic spread.

He added: “Not everyone carrying Covid is coughing, but they are still breathing; those aerosols escape masks and render them ineffectiv­e.”

“The public were demanding something must be done, so they got masks, but it is just a comfort blanket,” Dr Axon said. “Now we are entrenchin­g bad behaviour.”

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