Coronavirus When can the use of masks be abandoned? Experts estimate what is the most likely time for a “mask exit”

The abandonment of masks is likely to occur at different times in different areas.

When could we give up masks, those protectors who became symbols of the Corona era?

Masks have been hotly debated throughout the year, have been protested and caused individual outbursts of emotion in public places.

However, the experts did not want to specify a specific time or figure at which the masks could be abandoned. All that is certain is that the waiver will take place at different times in different areas. Some are never going to give up masks altogether.

Helsingin Sanomat asked the Director General of the Department of Health and Welfare THL Markku Tervahautaa and a senior expert from the National Institute of Occupational Health Erja Mäkelä to assess when masks could be abandoned.

In addition, three experts answered the question of when they personally intend to give up the use of the mask.

Government line in its exit strategy month by month how to ease restrictions. For face masks, all that is stated is that the national recommendations are valid and their abandonment will be reviewed in early June.

When could that happen?

Mäkelä: “Once the infection situation has dropped to a certain point at some point, I assume that THL estimates that various restrictions can be phased out, including masks. How this step is defined is not known to me. Behind the mask recommendation is THL and when it gradually abandons the recommendation, the use of masks is likely to cease. At the moment, masks are still needed in public transport, public spaces and workplaces. ”

Tar Grave: “This is not thought out in detail. In general, the recommendation is likely to unravel in the reverse order in which it was introduced. The last word is on the regions here too. At the moment, the recommendation to use masks is valid – and I remind you that this is a recommendation and not a must. If we got to the same type of situation in the summer as we did last summer, when there were very few cases of the disease, the masks would no longer have much of an effect. ”

Is it possible to define a specific incidence rate in which masks can be dispensed with? The incidence rate in the Helsinki and Uusimaa region for two weeks is less than two hundred, ie the epidemic is in the spread phase.

Tar Grave: “It would be straightforward to just look at the incidence rate. In addition, there is a need to understand, for example, in which population groups infections occur, whether there are clusters of infections in any one, and so on. In this way, we can go on the one hand to target and, on the other hand, to dismantle the actions in the right way. In addition, various parties, such as Finnair, VR and retail chains, make their own decisions regarding masks.

In the Government’s exit strategy after the release of the exceptional circumstances, the recommendations and restrictions are largely based on the classification of the baseline level of the epidemic and the stages of acceleration and spread. While remaining at baseline, the epidemic will not increase, and it corresponds to the situation in Finland last summer.

If a certain area has been at a basic level for some time and the direction is still good, then it can be decided whether the recommendations set for certain situations can be abandoned. ”

You suggested using masks a year ago, but the idea was knocked out. The government subsequently revamped its position and issued a recommendation on the use of masks in the autumn. Does the mind make me say what I said?

Tar Grave: “I don’t. There are so many things here. It has been learned both in Finland and elsewhere that a whole package of restrictions and recommendations is needed at the peak of the epidemic. However, if the infection passes through one layer of protection, it will collide with the second or third layer.

We have learned more about the use of masks, at least that we have a better understanding of indoor infection situations. The fact that the virus particles are able to spread air-mediated in space in small droplets should be taken into account in the future. Masks can be used to effectively prevent the spread of droplets. ”

How do you assess the Finnish attitudes towards the use of the mask that have developed during the year?

Mäkelä: “Masks have begun to be seen as necessary in preventing infections. It remains to be seen whether attitudes have changed so much that they would still be used after the corona pandemic. It may be that a coughing and coughing person with a prolonged seasonal flu, for example, will continue to wear the mask when traveling by public transport, for example. ”

Tar Grave: “The Finns have taken these chores in a great way. The recommendation line has largely been clarified. I recently visited the Big Market in the Lahti region, and I didn’t see any unmasked people there. In addition to keeping distances, customers also behaved very politely towards each other. ”

The organizers of summer open-air concerts are now heartbroken as to whether concerts can be held. Could masks save them?

Tar Grave: “If the disease is still on the move and we get together, at least there is no harm in masks. Of course, there is much more to organizing events. A working group of the Ministry of Education and Culture has prepared this presentation. The general observation is that you shouldn’t focus terribly hard on masks. They are only part of the whole, both when security measures are imposed and when they are dismantled. ”

Variants of the coronavirus have spread throughout Finland, and in the Hus area the British variant is already dominant. What conclusions should be drawn from this?

Tar Grave: “As virus variants become more common, infections within the family have become more prominent. In even earlier forms of the virus, it could happen that when one family member became ill, the others were spared the infection. Now, the tracers report that when one gets a variant of the virus, everyone living in the same household becomes ill. This makes the idea that the start of the summer cottage season would provide new opportunities. Holiday homes are not accessible to everyone, but quite a few could have the opportunity to isolate the infected and quarantine the exposed so that part of the family would stay home and some would work remotely from the summer house. ”

When would you be ready to give up the mask yourself?

Deputy Chief Physician of Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District Eeva Ruotsalainen: “Face masks, hand hygiene and safety intervals are the precautions that will last forever. They are the best, easiest and least burdensome way to prevent the virus from spreading.

Other restrictions can be checked before this. The aim is to have the lowest possible infection rates in the Hus area by the summer, ie below the baseline limit, which means that the incidence of two weeks is less than 25 infections per 100,000 people. At the same time, vaccinations are progressing at a good pace.

But even if we reach that level next summer, for example, restrictions on public events will remain at least partly the same as last summer, when there were about 50 cases of the disease per week. ”

Chief Physician of THL, Department of Health and Welfare Emmi Sarvikivi: “Isn’t it wisest to go by the rules agreed upon together. I will not comment on the time. “

Population Alliance Research Professor Anna Rotkirch: “In this pandemic, masks will probably be abandoned last – if even then. Personally, I may never give it up completely, but I use it, for example, to avoid seasonal flu. The mask looks funny and dazzles the glasses, but it is a negligible price to be saved from illness. ”

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