Modelling studies are studies that use evidence-based assumptions and statistics to predict what might happen to populations and disease transmission patterns. Given the limited empirical data around mask use and COVID-19 transmission, modelling studies can aid our understanding of the potential effect masks may have on COVID-19 transmission.

Modelling studies have suggested that surgical mask use is likely to be effective in reducing the rate of infection with COVID-19 (Study 1, Study 2, Study 3, Study 4, Study 5) or other respiratory diseases, particularly when combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions like physical distancing and hand hygiene. In one modelling study, even low or moderately effective masks could have substantial impacts on transmission of COVID-19 in some settings. Another study showed that high adherence of surgical mask use (80%) could effectively eliminate an outbreak of influenza. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation’s COVID-19 transmission model dashboard illustrates how universal mask use may impact COVID-19 outcomes in different settings. Results of models should always be interpreted with caution as results can be sensitive to the model assumptions and parameters. For example, models that predict influenza transmission may not be directly applicable to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

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Editor's note

Author: Jackie Knee
Review: Peter Winch, Julie Watson
Last update: 10.09.2020

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