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COVID-19

Danish study finds no clear evidence face masks protect wearer from Covid-19 infection

A major Danish study has found face masks give no clear protection from Covid-19 infection to the wearer, but did not examine whether the wearer protects others by using the item.

Danish study finds no clear evidence face masks protect wearer from Covid-19 infection
People with and without face masks at Copenhagen Pride, August 2020. Photo: Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

The study compared how well protected one group of people who used masks were compared with a second group who did not use them. The results of the study were announced in a statement released by Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet.

It is important to note that the study looked exclusively at the protective effects of masks for the wearer, and not at the wearer’s ability to protect others.

As such, the study cannot be used to draw conclusions on the general merits of using face masks as an effective preventative measure against Covid-19 infection, the researchers behind the study said.

The research project involved two groups totalling 6,000 people, and was conducted in April and May this year, when face mask use was not widespread in Denmark.

During this period, Denmark’s lockdown was still ongoing, with many businesses and public institutions closed.

In the non-face mask group, 2.1 percent of participants were infected with new coronavirus, while 1.8 percent of participants in the face mask-wearing group were infected.

That difference is not big enough to conclude with certainty a benefit of using face masks with regard to protecting oneself from infection.

The researchers stressed that there are limits to the conclusions that can be drawn from the results.

“The study thereby fails to confirm the expected halving of risk of infection for the wearer of the face mask, but the results could suggest a moderate level of protection of 15-20 percent,” the Danish-language press statement notes.

“According to the study authors, their findings offer evidence about the degree of protection mask wearers can anticipate in a setting where others are not wearing masks and where other public health measures, including social distancing, are in effect,” reads the English-language counterpart.

“The findings, however, should not be used to conclude that a recommendation for everyone to wear masks in the community would not be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infections, because the trial did not test the role of masks in source control (transmission from an infected person to others) of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” it adds.

Neither did the study examine the effects of face masks in situations in which it is not possible to maintain a social distance, the researchers note.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s extended face mask requirement takes effect: These are the rules you need to know

Member comments

  1. This story is click bait for people who are disgruntled about wearing a mask. Publishing this brings no benefit to the community, instead it causes further confusion.

  2. This story is click bait for people who are disgruntled about wearing a mask. Publishing this brings no benefit to the community, instead it causes further confusion.

  3. Let’s find some more useless things to study with taxpayers money…
    How about a study on the effectiveness of a mask if it’s only covering the mouth?

  4. This study is at odds with other studies around the world, studies which show a significant benefit to the wearer. I am wearing a mask.

  5. Those who interpreted the results of this study are criminally irresponsible. As stated in previous comments, publishing this brings no benefit to the community, instead it causes further confusion. It also flies in the face of numerous studies worldwide.

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COVID-19

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.” 

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