The worldwide outbreak of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) has already put healthcare workers (HCWs) at a high risk of infection. The question of how to give HCWs the best protection against infection is a priority. Our literature review has indicated that the degree of protection required in looking after people with COVID-19 infection, is dependent on the particular environment to which the HCW is exposed. Covering more of the body could provide better protection for HCWs. Of importance, it is not just the provision of PPE but the skills in donning and doffing of PPE that are important, this being a key time for potential transmission of pathogen to the HCW and in due time from them to others. In relation to face masks, the evidence indicates that a higher-level specification of face masks (N95) seems to be essential to protect HCWs from Coronavirus infection. Evidence specifically around PPE and protection from the COVID-19 virus is minimal and at the level of anecdotal reports only.
COVID-19 is a disease which is sweeping the globe, often with devastating consequences. The more we understand, the more it appears that infection has a very wide clinical spectrum from totally asymptomatic to life threatening. Without widespread community testing it is impossible to ascertain true infection rates and develop strategies which reduce or prevent transmission without the need for on-going draconian measures such as complete national lockdown. These measures are mandatory at the time of writing, however widespread adoption of face masks has been shown to help prevent transmission of other respiratory pathogens, and also infections acquired by healthcare staff. Combining mass testing with a combination of social distancing and face mask use might offer a way forward until a mass COVID-19 vaccination programme can be established.