Vaccines are safe and effective and saving lives around the world. But most do not confer 100% protection, most countries have not vaccinated everyone, and it is not yet known if jabs will prevent future transmission of emerging coronavirus variants.
Globally, Covid cases exceeded 250 million this month. The virus is still infecting 50 million people worldwide every 90 days due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, with thousands dying each day.
Now a systematic review and meta analysis of non-pharmaceutical interventions has found for the first time that mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing are all effective measures at curbing cases – with mask wearing the most effective.
Researchers at Monash University and the University of Edinburgh say multi-faceted measures, such as lockdowns and closures of borders, schools and workplaces need further analysis to assess their potential negative effects on populations.
However, until now, reviews have not been robust enough to allow experts to make firm conclusions about the effectiveness of such measures in tackling Covid.
Results from more than 30 studies from around the world were analysed in detail, showing a statistically significant 53% reduction in the incidence of Covid with mask wearing and a 25% reduction with physical distancing.
Handwashing also indicated a substantial 53% reduction in Covid incidence, although this was not statistically significant after adjusting for the small number of handwashing studies included.
Detailed analysis was not possible for other measures, including quarantine and isolation, universal lockdowns, and closures of borders, schools, and workplaces, due to differences in study design, outcome measures and quality, the researchers said.