The study was conducted by scientists from the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). This study is considered the best of its kind so far, as only two other significant studies – one in Guinea-Bissau and the other in India – have tried to determine whether there is any statistical evidence that face masks offer protection from the coronavirus. All three studies showed that masks do not prevent a person from catching the disease.
“Now we have properly rigorous scientific research we can rely on, the evidence shows wearing masks in the community does not significantly reduce the rates of infection,” said the scientists in their study. (Related: It's not SCIENCE; it's COMPLIANCE: Fauci says masks, social distancing will be required even AFTER a COVID-19 vaccine that is supposedly 90 percent effective.)
The UCPH study wanted to learn how well people wearing face masks were protected from the coronavirus compared to people who were not wearing them. To do this, they got 6,000 participants and split them into two groups – one wearing face masks and the other not.
After one month of either wearing or not wearing masks, the volunteers were tested for current and previous coronavirus infections.
Around 2.1 percent of participants in the group that did not wear face masks were infected with the coronavirus, while only 1.8 percent of the volunteers in the face mask-wearing group were infected.
While the group that did not wear face masks experienced a few more infections than the group that did, the UPCH scientists believe that the differences are statistically insignificant.
“The study thereby fails to confirm the expected halving of risk of infection for the wearer of the face mask,” wrote the authors in their Danish-language press release. “But the results could suggest a moderate level of protection of 15 to 20 percent.”
The study was conducted between April and May, when mask-wearing was not as widespread in Denmark.
While the UCPH scientists have shown that wearing a mask offers no benefit to the wearer, they were quick to point out that their study has its own limitations.
Their study limited itself to offering evidence regarding whether face masks can offer protection in a setting where other people are not wearing face masks but other public health measures, such as social distancing, have been put in place.
In their press release, the UCPH scientists also highlight the fact that their trial did not test the role of face masks as a means of preventing the spread of COVID-19 from an infected person to others.
As such, they believe that more research needs to be done on the subject of face masks before anybody can draw any sweeping conclusions regarding whether they should be worn or even mandated.
The few studies that have been done of the effectiveness of face masks have been of poor quality. In their commentary regarding the study, Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson of Oxford University point out that the few trials that have been done were mere “observation studies,” which they believe to be a less accurate form of research.
In these studies, scientists would compare people who say they wear masks regularly with people who say that they don't. No effort is done to create a randomized control group, and all the information researchers get is from the testimonies of their participants.
“The low number of studies into the effect different interventions have on the spread of COVID-19 – a subject of global importance – suggests there is total lack of interest from governments in pursuing evidence-based medicine,” they wrote.