In a paper released in late April, researchers estimate that simply wearing masks is potentially much more impactful than even indefinite economic lockdowns. In the model, if 80% of the population wears masks, estimated deaths decline by two-thirds compared to an indefinite lockdown, and by 95% compared to just enforcing social distancing after reopening.
This may explain why there have been relatively few deaths in Asian countries where lockdowns were not implemented, but where mask use is widespread. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan continue to keep even restaurants and bars open, yet death rates from COVID-19 are between 25 and 100 times lower than they are in Canada.
If this result holds, simply wearing masks will have proven to be a much better strategy than lockdowns ever were. Masks are cheap and easy, and using them would allow millions of Canadians to return to their jobs, and Canadian society to largely return to normal.