Much of the current official guidance about personal protective equipment is designed to protect the wearer from droplets, and infection spread by aerosols is only considered a risk when caused by medical interventions such an intubating a patient.
“Surgical facemasks provide inadequate protection against aerosols and staff safety can only be increased by more widespread use of specialised tight-fitting respirators (N95 or FFP3 masks) and increased indoor ventilation,” Proffesor Tovey said.
Professor Guy Marks from the University of New South Wales, who was also involved in the study, said the findings had broad implications beyond hospital workers.
“The generation of both droplets and particularly aerosols by everyday breathing activities reinforces the importance of maintaining social distance, having excellent ventilation in buildings and transport,” he said.
Many schools in Europe now mandate that windows must be open to ensure good ventilation.