Mask policies in various countries have been shown to reduce deaths from Covid-19, regardless of the role of vaccines.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at 44 countries in Asia and Europe to see how mask policies enacted at the beginning of the pandemic affected Covid-19 deaths. Countries included Greece, Germany, Korea, Italy, Sweden, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, among others. Mask policies in the U.S. and Canada were not included in the study because they are made by states or provinces.
The study analyzed Covid-19 deaths from February 2020, when the first Covid-19 deaths were confirmed, and May 2020, and the point when some countries began lifting restrictions. It found that nations without mask policies had 288 deaths per million residents; those with policies had 48 per million.
Overall, deaths were “significantly lower” in countries that enforced mask policies, suggesting face coverings offered an additional layer of protection that “could prevent unnecessary Covid-19 deaths,” researchers said in a news release.
The findings also emphasize the important role face masks play in regions that still don’t have access to Covid-19 vaccines, researchers say, especially as more dangerous variants continue to emerge and spread. “Across variants, vaccines may reduce mortality but not necessarily morbidity, and face masks continue to protect against both,” said lead study investigator Dr. Sahar Motallebi of Lund University in Sweden. “So, we don’t have to choose between these two good policies of vaccination and face masks or substitute one for the other when we can and must do both in parallel.”