Michael Staines
Michael Staines

13.00 2 Jun 2020


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A leading immunologist is calling for face masks to be made mandatory in public.

Professor Luke O’Neill made the call after a new study, published in the Lancet Journal, found that wearing masks can lead to a six-fold drop in the spread of COVID-19.

On The Pat Kenny Show, he also pointed to a hospital in Boston which found that making masks mandatory for staff and patients cut the rate of infection in half.

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He said it is time to consider making them mandatory in Ireland.

“More and more studies are showing us the real evidence that masks work,” he said.

“Because of course there was circumstantial evidence which we all liked the look of […] But now we are seeing real evidence in the Lancet.

“There was six-fold decrease risk overall from mask wearing if you look at the numbers. That is a big effect isn’t it – you would take that”

He said Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston halved its infection rate after making masks mandatory on March 25th.

“They didn’t change anything else in that period,” he said. “That is a really good scientific study showing mask wearing as having a big effect.

“So, both of those studies make it even more compelling, as we have said all along anyway, that masks are a great thing.

“The next question is should we mandate them, because people are not wearing them?

“When I am out and about in shops and so on, there are not many people wearing them. So, we will have to move towards making them mandatory.”

He said mandatory masks would allow health officials to seriously consider a reduction in the two-metre social distancing rule.

“Definitely if you go to one metre, there is a much higher risk compared to two metres,” he said. “They have real numbers on that.”

“But that is without masks remember. So, one thing that is for definite, if you want to go to one metre, you better wear a mask because now you are up close.

“That might be the recommendation, you would be allowed to go to one metre as long as you’re wearing a mask.”


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