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Countries with national mask mandates had lower COVID-19 death rates, global study finds

A study examining the association between face mask policies and a reduction in COVID-19 deaths found that countries that enacted national mask mandates at the beginning of the pandemic had significantly lower death rates per million people than countries that did not enforce any mask rules, which researchers say supports the use of face masks to prevent excess coronavirus deaths and should “be advised during airborne disease epidemics.”

Published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine last month, the study examined 44 countries in Asia and Europe, including Greece, Germany, South Korea, Italy, the U.K., Sweden and Hong Kong.

Canada and the U.S. were not included because mask mandates were determined by province, territory and state versus a federal policy.

The study examined 27 countries with mask mandates and 17 without in nearly one billion people. The researchers took into account 10 relevant demographic factors such as social, clinical and time dependent variables in their modelling.

Researchers received their data on country-level COVID-19 morality rates, tests and cases from the open-access Oxford University Our World in Data database.

The study, which spanned from Feb. 15, 2020 to May 31, 2020 found the average COVID-19 mortality rates for countries without a face mask policies were 288.54 per million compared to the 48.40 per million in countries with national mask mandates.

During the study period, there were 2,167,664 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the 44 countries studied, with 1,253,757 of those cases found in countries with no face masks, and 913,907 in countries with face mask mandates.

Sixty days into the pandemic, countries without mask mandates had an average daily increase of 0.0533 deaths per million in contrast to the 0.0360 per million daily average increase of countries with mask policies.

“While several studies before this have looked at the impact of masks on COVID-19 cases, fewer studies were focused on whether mask wearing may reduce COVID-19 deaths, and no study had looked at the data across multiple countries,” said lead study author Dr. Sahar Motallebi in a release. “The large sample of culturally diverse countries in this retrospective study covers a large population, giving us more evidence towards the life-saving potential of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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