The Impact of Universal Mask Use on SARS-COV-2 in Victoria, Australia on the Epidemic Trajectory of COVID-19

Front Public Health. 2021 Apr 21;9:625499. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.625499. eCollection 2021.


Objective(s): To estimate the impact of universal community face mask use in Victoria, Australia along with other routine disease control measures in place. Methods: A mathematical modeling study using an age structured deterministic model for Victoria, was simulated for 123 days between 1 June 2020 and 1 October 2020, incorporating lockdown, contact tracing, and case findings with and without mask use in varied scenarios. The model tested the impact of differing scenarios of the universal use of face masks in Victoria, by timing, varying mask effectiveness, and uptake. Results: A six-week lockdown with standard control measures, but no masks, would have resulted in a large resurgence by September, following the lifting of restrictions. Mask use can substantially reduce the epidemic size, with a greater impact if at least 50% of people wear a mask which has an effectiveness of at least 40%. Early mask use averts more cases than mask usage that is only implemented closer to the peak. No mask use, with a 6-week lockdown, results in 67,636 cases and 120 deaths by 1 October 2020 if no further lockdowns are used. If mask use at 70% uptake commences on 23 July 2020, this is reduced to 7,961 cases and 42 deaths. We estimated community mask effectiveness to be 11%. Conclusion(s): Lockdown and standard control measures may not have controlled the epidemic in Victoria. Mask use can substantially improve epidemic control if its uptake is higher than 50% and if moderately effective masks are used. Early mask use should be considered in other states if community transmission is present, as this has a greater effect than later mask wearing mandates.

Keywords: Coronavirus – COVID-19; mask effectiveness; modeling study; outbreak control; universal masks use.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Epidemics*
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Victoria / epidemiology