Why surgeons mask up

To mask or not to mask? That is the question (with apologies to Shakespeare).

To those who want to abandon the wearing of masks – for whatever reason – I would pose another question. Why do surgeons put on masks (and wash their hands) before operating?

It is not, primarily, to protect themselves from catching an infection from the patient (though it does act as a filter if the patient is infected).

It is to protect the patient from catching any infection that the surgeon may have picked up from their contact with other people who may be infected.

Covid is only different from other infectious diseases because it is a new virus, about which we knew little, but are rapidly learning.

All infectious diseases are spread from person to person by being close to one another. With respiratory infections the bacteria or viruses are in the ‘respiratory tract – from mouth and nose, through throat down to larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe) to the lungs. Thus, they are in the air we breathe out – particularly if we cough or sneeze.

It is vital that people realise that they may pick up the bugs without becoming ill (by touch or breathing in the air around other people).

They may carry the bacteria or viruses in their breath without knowing it.

But these carriers can pass the infection on to others they meet – again, without knowing it.

The vaccine protects us from becoming seriously ill if we become infected. It does not (so far as we know) stop us from being a carrier and passing it on to others.

There are two reasons why we are being asked to continue to wear masks in places where there are other people, especially in enclosed spaces – such as indoors or on transport.

The first is partly to protect ourselves from breathing in the infected air from others (because masks act as a filter that traps the bugs).

But the second, and more important reason is to protect others from breathing in the air we breathe out, which may contain the virus without our knowing it.

Although we are now no longer, legally obliged to wear masks in public places, the nasty little but deadly Covid virus is still around in the air we may breathe (if close to someone who is a carrier).

So, it makes sense that we still need to be cautious (the term used by the experts) by protecting both ourselves and others.

Malcolm Morrison

Retired Orthopaedic Surgeon

Prospect Hill


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Backpacks of hope

As schools across England close for the summer holidays, Mary’s Meals is calling on parents and children to team up with other families to fill pre-loved backpacks which will be gifted to school children in Malawi.

The old school bags can be recycled and filled with useful educational items, such as pencils and notepads, or other essentials like clothing, soap and toothpaste.

They are then sent to Malawi to help children receiving a daily meal in school from Mary’s Meals get the most out of their learning.

Many of these children do not have basic items for school and the backpacks are often the only gift they have ever received.

Since the project began in 2002, more than 500,000 have been donated by people in the UK.

A backpack can be filled with notepads, pencils, pens, crayons, eraser, sharpener, ruler, pencil case, towel, shorts or skirt, t-shirt or dress, flip-flops or sandals, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and a spoon.

For more information visit marysmeals.org.uk/backpack or call 0800 698 1212.

Caroline McLafferty

Communications Officer

Mary's Meals

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