Widespread facemask use could shrink the ‘R’ number and prevent a second COVID-19 wave – study

Fred Lewsey
Communications team
Published
10 Jun 2020

Even basic homemade masks can significantly reduce transmission if enough people wear them when in public, according to latest modelling. Researchers call for information campaigns that encourage the making and wearing of facemasks.

We have little to lose from the widespread adoption of facemasks, but the gains could be significant
Renata Retkute


Population-wide use of facemasks keeps the coronavirus ‘reproduction number’ under 1.0, and prevents further waves of the virus when combined with lockdowns, a modelling study led by the University of Cambridge suggests.

The research suggests that lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of SARS-CoV-2, and that even homemade masks with limited effectiveness can dramatically reduce transmission rates if worn by enough people, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

The researchers call for information campaigns across wealthy and developing nations alike that appeal to our altruistic side: 'my facemask protects you, your facemask protects me'. The findings are published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

“Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of facemasks by the public,” said lead author Dr Richard Stutt, part of a team that usually models the spread of crop diseases at Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences.

“If widespread facemask use by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and reopening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine.”
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https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/...-19-wave-study