Wearing face masks prevented spread of coronavirus in Taiwan: CECC

Face masks could reduce coronavirus transmission by 99%: Taiwan CECC

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Chang Shan-chwen. (YouTube, CDC screenshot)

Chang Shan-chwen. (YouTube, CDC screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Face masks are a significant factor in reducing the spread of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), with the odds of transmitting the disease dropping by up to 99 percent if both infected and non-infected persons wear masks, according to Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) specialist advisory panel convener Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳).

During the CECC's daily afternoon press conference on Saturday (May 2), Chang said that he received many questions from the public about why Taiwan was so successful in limiting the spread of coronavirus, including in hospitals. Chang said that it all boils down to the wearing of masks by both persons infected with the disease and healthy individuals.

Chang said if people infected with coronavirus wear a face mask, the number of droplets released through sneezing, coughing, exhaling, speaking, etc... is reduced by 70 to 80 percent. Likewise, if a healthy person wears a face mask, the amount of such droplets inhaled from carriers will also be reduced by 70 to 80 percent.

He then estimated that when both parties are wearing a mask, the chance of transmission drops down to just one or two percent. However, he conceded that there is not yet any scientific data to support his theory.

Chang pointed out that based on the experience of hospital staff, when doctors and nurses wear surgical masks, the chance of infection is greatly reduced. He cited a case of a coronavirus cluster infection of eight which broke out in a hospital in Taiwan in February.

He said that because a confirmed patient (case No. 34) suffered from asthma, she was unable to wear a face mask. As a result, it is believed this resulted in a greater quantity of the virus being released into the air, which would have been more easily inhaled or likely to land on surfaces, only later to be touched by hospital workers.

As for the most severe of Taiwan's coronavirus cases, last week 10 cases were still using ventilators, but this number has since dropped down to six. He added that out of seven coronavirus patients who originally required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), two have died, three were taken off the machines, while only two still continue to require the devices.

Out of Taiwan's 437 total cases, 347 were imported, 55 were local, and 35 came from the Goodwill Fleet. Up until now, only six have succumbed to the disease, while 334 have been released from hospital isolation