New Zealanders should wear masks when they are out and about this winter, according to pharmaceutical scientist Sir Ray Avery.
This is important if Kiwis want to get through winter without mass shutdowns.
COVID-19, like the flu, will be a seasonal disease and social distancing alone will not prevent people from catching the virus this winter, he said.
“New Zealanders should get a good quality mask to wear when they are out in public to ensure a COVID-19 free winter.
“From my experience in designing biocontainment facilities in Africa and Asia, viruses like COVID-19 may be transmitted by aerosol transmission over long distances in closed room environments.
“The American Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has previously advised that there was no evidence covid may be transmitted by aerosols and recommended that social distancing of two metres would prevent community transmission of covid.
“However, a few days ago former US food and drug administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the two-metre social distancing requirement was not based on science.
Gottlieb said scientists have learned COVID-19 spreads through aerosols, not just droplets. He said probably two-metre distancing isn't effective.
“The fact that we've probably over-relied on a flu-based model caused us to under-appreciate the role of aerosol transmission.
“It probably caused us to underestimate the use of high-quality masks in reducing transmission and probably caused us to overestimate the benefits of two-metre social distancing,” Gottlieb said.
Avery says there are important issues that New Zealand needs to address to manage COVID-19 on an ongoing basis.
As winter approaches the rate of community transmission of COVID-19 will increase due to low temperatures and low humidity which allows the virus to be transmitted over longer distances.
“The best advice I can give is for people to protect against COVID-19 is to invest in a good quality mask when out in public, on a train, on a plane or in the supermarket.
“It’s a simple and proven method of preventing mass infections of infectious diseases.”