Source: Our World in Data
Myth 6: Wearing a mask will stop me from catching it
With this myth it’s easy to see where the misunderstanding has come from.
While masks are most helpful in preventing infected people from spreading the virus (by stopping viral particles from sneezing and coughing being released), they are not as effective in preventing the general public from catching the virus, especially if people are already practicing social distancing when traveling on public transport or walking around.
In fact, intermittently putting a mask on and taking it off actually increases the amount of times you touch your face, which could increase the likelihood of putting infectious particles around your mouth, nose and eyes.
While masks are in short supply, they should be predominantly reserved for healthcare workers and carers, who work in very close proximity with large numbers of infected patients.
For the general public, more effective methods of protecting yourself from infection include regularly washing your hands, not touching your face, disinfecting surfaces, and social distancing.
If you already have a mask then there is no harm in wearing it, but make sure your mask is sanitised and that your hands are clean when taking it off and putting it on. And wash your hands again after taking it off.
Myth 7: It would be better to let everyone catch the virus so that we become immune to it, even if it causes some deaths in the short-term
Although this strategy (known as herd immunity) is not something that many people might admit to thinking, it is naturally on people’s minds when the current alternative we are facing includes widespread job losses, school closures, economic recession, and being confined in our own homes for an indefinite period of time.
To put things in perspective, if everyone caught the virus without any strategies in place to suppress it, this would lead to an enormous number of deaths, a devastated healthcare system and subsequent irreparable breakdown of society and the economy. A team of scientists at Imperial College London modelled what this would look like in the UK and predicted that it could lead to a quarter of a million deaths that would completely overwhelm the healthcare system for months.
In fact, all sectors would become overwhelmed if a large proportion of the workforce suddenly became ill around the same time (including the doctors and nurses who are meant to treat patients).
It would also prevent people from accessing healthcare, emergency services and even prescriptions for normal medical reasons, and people could begin dying from minor conditions such as asthma attacks, heart attacks, pregnancy complications, everyday accidents, bacterial infections and so on.
Instead of this scenario, governments are aiming to eventually achieve widespread immunity with vaccination, when one becomes available. This way a large part of the population will become immunised in a controlled manner, drastically minimising the devastating potential of the virus.
Flattening the curve using social distancing: