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‘Wear a mask!’: Research scientist debunks claims that masks are useless against spread of COVID-19

Australians have been told not to wear face masks unless they are unwell, but an Australian data scientist says the advice is wrong and he is leading a push for western governments to prioritise the use of face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Jeremy Howard, Founder of Masks4All and University of San Francisco research scientist, says there’s good evidence which suggests universal mask-wearing can stop coronavirus in its tracks.

He says the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) advice that masks only need to be worn when you’re showing signs of illness is flawed.

“About 50 per cent of people with this virus don’t have any symptoms, and the WHO says ‘wear a mask if you’re sick’ but no one knows if they’re sick,” Mr Howard told 3AW’s Ross and John.

“The time you’re most infectious is in the early days, when almost nobody has symptoms. So the WHO’s own advice, which is wear a mask when you’re sick, really means everybody has to wear a mask!”

The masks need not be medical grade to make a difference, either.

“An amazing thing happened in the Czech Republic a few weeks ago. A guy called Petr Ludwig put out a YouTube video saying ‘hey, wearing masks is a good idea’,” Mr Howard said.

“People believed him … within three days the entire country, everybody, had a mask.

“They all made their own.

“If you compare them to their neighbours in Austria, the Czechs really have COVID-19 dramatically more under control than their neighbours.”

Support for Mr Howard’s position is gaining traction.

Israel and Austria have just announced citizens must wear masks, joining Slovakia and a region in the US.

At a White House briefing earlier this week, US President Donald Trump also suggested that Americans wear a scarf while outside the house to stop the spread of coronavirus.

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