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Explained: What is double masking; How is it more effective amid new strain of COVID-19 viruses

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New Delhi, Jan 28: With the spread of new strain COVID-19 variants around the world, it can be seen that healthcare experts are now encouraging the use of two face masks, a practice popularly called "double masking", to help create a stronger barrier against the deadly disease.

double masking

Doubling up face masks just "makes common sense" as it is likely to be more effective, according to the US' top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci. "That's the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95," he said in an interview.

Number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 more than double number of active cases:GovtNumber of people vaccinated against COVID-19 more than double number of active cases:Govt

The practice generated buzz after US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris' inauguration ceremony, where several officials and celebrities were photographed wearing two face masks. But in reality, how effective is this method?

How is double masking more effective?

Several healthcare experts, including Fauci, recommend wearing two layers of face masks instead of just one as viruses, in theory, will have a tougher time penetrating both layers as opposed to a single layer. But the US' Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is yet to officially recommend double masking.

The commentary, authored by Monica Gandhi and Linsey C Marr, shows that wearing a surgical mask under a cloth mask offers better protection against viruses as the surgical mask acts as a filter and the cloth mask provides an extra layer of filtration, while also improving the fit.

"A mask is like an obstacle course for particles to get through," Lindsey Marr, a virus transmission expert told US NGO AARP. Adding a second mask adds another obstacle course, increasing the chance that the particle will be trapped before it gets through to the other side.

In places where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as in a plane or at a busy store or event, two masks will help provide extra protection. While N95 masks are believed to be the best in terms of protecting you against COVID-19 as they are said to filter 95 per cent of airborne particles, these are difficult to come by.

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    In another study published in the peer-reviewed journal Matter in July stated that double masking could increase protection from viruses by 50-75 per cent.

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