Sunday, March 7

Should we favor category 1 masks against new variants of the coronavirus?

Should we abandon fabric masks in favor of surgical masks to protect ourselves from Covid-19? The rumor started to spread on Monday, January 18, after the publication of a small article in The voice of the North reporting new recommendations from the High Council for Public Health (HCSP).

A few days earlier, the body responsible for issuing health opinions had been seized by the Ministry of Health, and its members resulted in an opinion sent Monday afternoon to the Directorate General of Health (DGS). It is now up to her to validate or not this text to make it an official opinion of the HCSP. In the meantime, Didier Lepelletier, co-chair of the permanent Covid-19 working group at the HCSP, spoke to clarify the recommendations of the experts: they now recommend to favor the wearing of category 1 masks, whose filtering power is greater. 90%, whether in fabric or surgical, and to put aside masks made by hand since the start of the epidemic, which do not meet the standards established by the French Association for Standardization (Afnor).

In addition, the members of the HCSP insist on the need to increase the distance between individuals desirable in public space and to bring it to 2 meters, against 1 meter currently. This distance of 2 meters is already applied in other countries, the United Kingdom or Canada, but had not yet been considered in France.

Lack of regulations for homemade masks

These recommendations intervene in an epidemic situation judged “Worrying” by the scientific council. In fact, the VoC 202012/01 variant, which seems to be the main factor accelerating the epidemic in the United Kingdom and Ireland, appeared in France in mid-December 2020. The preliminary results of the first sequencing analysis in large scale in France, led by Vittoria Colizza’s team at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), suggest that this variant could become dominant on French territory by the end of February if nothing is made to contain it.

Read also Covid-19: the circulation of the British variant questions the wearing of certain fabric masks

For HCSP, one way to deal with this variant considered to be 50 to 70% more transmissible than the dominant variant currently observed in France would be to wear more filtering masks. “Category 1 masks must be favored, insists Didier Lepelletier. But it is out of the question to abandon general public masks ”, that is, fabric masks.

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