Handwashing, distancing and mask-wearing all drastically cut risk of catching COVID-19: research
These have been the three main tenets of public health advice aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus for months now, dating back to when Canada was still facing its first wave of infections.
With the second wave upon us, and Canada's number of active COVID-19 cases doubling in less than a month, they've once again been trotted out as the best advice there is for day-to-day safety.
New research suggests there's good reason for that.
Researchers in Thailand looked at records related to 211 cases of COVID-19 in that country, including clusters that developed around stadiums, nightclubs and a government office.
All of the cases studied were asymptomatic, meaning those around them had no reason to be taking any precautions beyond what they were normally doing when out and about.
Through contact tracing, the researchers were able to identify 839 other individuals who had close contact with the infected patients but never tested positive for the disease themselves.
All 1,050 individuals were asked about which personal hygiene measures they were practising at the time they were exposed to the asymptomatic carriers.
From their answers, the researchers were able to determine that maintaining a distance of at least one metre from a COVID-19 carrier reduced one's risk of acquiring the disease by 85 per cent.
Wearing masks during all contact with the carrier reduced the infection risk by 77 per cent. There was no proof, however, that wearing masks for only some of the contact made any difference at all.
The researchers also found that the infection risk was reduced by 76 per cent when close contact with a COVID-19 carrier was limited to 15 minutes or less, and by 66 per cent when frequent handwashing was practised.
"Our findings support consistent wearing of masks, handwashing and social distancing in public to protect against COVID-19 infection," the researchers said in a statement.
Their work was presented this week at a conference organized by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.