After months of deliberation, Australia has embraced face masks as an effective way to help stymie coronavirus outbreaks.
In Victoria’s locked-down areas of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, where it is mandatory to wear a face mask when out in public, nearly every adult can be spotted wearing one wrapped around their ears.
But it turns out the requirement to wear a face mask won’t only stop us from coughing out or breathing in infected air droplets.
A study released on Thursday shows wearing a mask comes with an extra benefit – it helps us stop touching our faces.
Whether medical or fabric, the study found that face masks have been linked to a reduction in people touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
This is great news given one of the key ways of protecting yourself from the coronavirus is to stop touching your face.
That’s because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, which means it can get into your body through your eyes, nose and mouth.
All it takes for you to get sick is to touch an infected surface like a door handle then immediately touch your face, whether it be itching your nose or rubbing your eye.
Health authorities have been urging people to regularly wash our hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the shops, using the toilet or being out in public.
The research, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, used footage recorded in public transport stations and parks in China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and western European countries like England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
The scientists compared how often people touched their faces before the coronavirus pandemic, from January 2018 to October 2019, and during it, from February to March 2020.
During the periods studied, the number of people wearing face masks increased in all regions except the US.
“An increasing number of governments have enacted mandatory mask-wearing policies for the general population in public areas,” the researchers wrote.
“However, the mechanisms of the preventive effect associated
with masks are poorly understood, which has contributed to limited public acceptance of mandatory mask-wearing policies.”
The study found that less people touched their faces in countries like China where everyone was required to wear a face mask in public, which may help prevent the spread of the coronavirus among the general population.