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Fact check: Increase in UK COVID-19 cases does not prove masks are ineffective

A meme shared online has implied that the increase of COVID-19 cases in Britain proves that masks are ineffective at reducing the spread of the disease. This is false.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The meme has text that reads: “5 MONTHS NO MASKS AND COVID NUMBERS REDUCE. 2 MONTHS WITH MASKS AND WE’RE HEADING FOR 2ND WAVE” (here) .

Since the start of August, the number of coronavirus cases has risen sharply in Britain (coronavirus.data.gov.uk/cases). While this follows the introduction of rules (here) that make face coverings mandatory in some scenarios, it is not evidence that masks are ineffective, or even that they are responsible for the spike.

The easing of restrictions, such as households being allowed to mix, the reopening of pubs and restaurants, and students returning to school and university are reasonable explanations for why cases have increased.

Since June, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been recommending (here) that governments ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public areas.

However, medical authorities have never said masks alone will stop the spread of the disease, nor have they said that they are a substitute for other measures.

Instead, prevention methods, such as mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing should be used in tandem to be most effective (here) (here).

VERDICT

False. The increase in coronavirus cases in Britain is likely linked to the easing of restrictions. Masks alone will not stop the spread of the disease, instead they should be used in tandem with other measures to be effective.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here .       

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