Letter of the week - 'Visors are not the same as masks'

Letters to the Editor - The Hunts Post. 

Letters to the Editor - The Hunts Post. - Credit: iStockphoto

In a recent COVID Brief by the Prime Minister he emphasised the specific need to understand and address the transmission of the virus.

What the PM did not re-emphasise was that, with it being just 0.3 microns,  catching it through airborne aerosol contact with the eyes was just as deadly as its entering the body via the nose and mouth.

I am sure this omission, and some TV ads showing shoppers in just visors along with letters from supermarket CEOs – and now in vaccination invitations stating ‘attend in mask or visor’-  wrongly lead trusting people to believe that wearing just a visor is the equivalent to a mask and that a visor alone is safeguarding them (and others) when queuing or during indoor activities  such as shopping.  

Let’s be clear, these visor-only people are following bad advice/beliefs and are in deadly danger of catching / spreading COVID and represent a serious loophole that needs plugging through education.  

Web search ‘Visors Switzerland’ to see what I mean and just apply common sense, physics and logic to the situation remembering that the virus is sub-micronic, so can easily enter the eyes and that’s why NHS staff in a COVID environment wear BOTH a visor and mask, never only a visor.

Advisedly, even standard micronic surgical masks, as I use to save the N95/FFP3 ones for the NHS, offer better filtration / protection with breathable cloth/paper washable/disposable inserts.  Certainly, official advice needs changing to make proper ‘snug-fitting over nose and mouth’ face masks mandatory in shops rather than what we see being used totally inadequately loose-fitting ‘face coverings’ such as scarves or a jumper pulled up to cover the face just to get past the door check (if present at all) and pay mere lip-service to our protection.

So, everyone needs to understand and point out to wearers – and soon - that visors alone offer absolutely no protection to them or others outside nor in a general enclosed environment, like in shops.

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That’s because the sole purpose of a visor for protection is simply to prevent a payload of deadly aerosol from being projected into your eyes – the 3rd under-rated route into the body - from an unmasked, infected or asymptomatic person facing you who is talking to you at close range – within 2m (NHS advice).  

Also, when talking or just breathing (whether exempt or not)  - a visor alone does NOT stop that same cloud of projected personal fluids from entering the surrounding air and swirling around the visor (or protective screens) to be uploaded via your nose and mouth.  

In some cases your breath condenses on the inside of the visor (like glasses when wearing a mask) causing contaminated droplets to form and eventually to drip onto the floor or if reaching over shelves drip onto the produce/goods below.  So wearing visors only in shops is not, in general, safeguarding wearers or others to any effective extent and may actually be endangering everyone.

Even masked (with or without a visor) , and because the virus at some level) can be present in all supermarkets etc, especially if regularly frequented by asymptomatic maskless customers), you may still have a few of the virus getting through your mask but, reportedly, most people need a good payload of it, not just the odd one or two lingering orphans, to become infected/affected.  

Notwithstanding, you can still only ingest these virus elements if they are actually present in quantity, or even at reduced levels if you spend too long shopping thus harvesting a payload of them like a basking shark.  

That ‘reduced’ level of contamination to protect everyone can only be achieved in shops etc if everyone – including those who consider themselves exempt from wearing a mask for 20 mins or so to do the shopping*  - is protecting everyone else by wearing a mask and limiting their exposure/shopping time.  We should remember that masks have been proven to reduce the quantity of large aerosol that is expelled and otherwise would be lurking about and settling on items that subsequently you touch and that go into your shopping bag that also should be decontaminated – all items - when you get home.  That’s why till operators wash / decontaminate hands after handling each customer’s shopping. 

I believe with everyone masked and pulling in the same direction with a will to live and armed with this knowledge, I can get through this.  However, everyone – without exception or exemption*  – needs to fully understand how this virus is transmitted/picked up and gets into their system via eyes, nose and mouth, and how they can positively and effectively protect themselves whilst contributing to curbing that spread,  for the benefit of all.

So, please, do not believe or advocate that visors are equivalent to masks and follow all the guidelines as every little helps a lot and any little is always a lot better than absolutely no little at all. Let’s not be included in the 100,000 that we may well (but avoidably) reach.

Please note that systems are in place to help exempt people to get their shopping done for them via our very proactive District and County Councils). Ask them for details, they are good, sympathetic, pragmatic listeners.

David McCandless

St Ives