Although people infected with the deadly virus, also known as COVID-19, often show symptoms, there are others who can go about their day being asymptomatic and unknowingly spreading it to others.
Walking around without a face mask in Hong Kong, Japan or North Korea is seen as irresponsible, and several U.S. states are also now advising people to wear them when out.
With no mask barriers at all, two-thirds of the healthy hamsters - 66.7 percent - were infected with the novel coronavirus in a week, the researchers found.
In one scenario the mask barriers were placed only on cages with the infected subjects, another saw the masks covering the healthy subjects, and the third saw with no mask barriers at all.
IMAGE Science Mag
The study was conducted by the University of Hong Kong and while its methods may sound a bit odd, the results provide actionable information.
Led by Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, one of the world's top coronavirus experts, the team placed hamsters that were artificially infected with the disease next to healthy animals.
The infection rate dropped by about 35% when masks were placed on the healthy hamsters' cage.
The researchers used hamsters in two separate cages.More news: Donald Trump Proposes Reopening G7 Summit at Camp David Despite Coronavirus Pandemic
The researchers consequently placed a fan between the cages to allow for the transmission of respiratory droplets from the infected hamsters' cage to the other.
Furthermore, hamsters that did become infected during the masked experiments showed lower levels of the virus within their body than those infected without a mask.
They found that when the mask was placed over the infected cage the infection rate dropped to just over 15 percent.
"It's very clear that the effect of masking the infected, especially when they are asymptomatic - or symptomatic - it's much more important than anything else", Yuen told reporters Sunday. "That's the strongest result we showed here", Yuen said.More news: Graeme Smith wants Sourav Ganguly to head ICC after COVID-19 crisis
Customers wearing protective masks from the coronavirus and keeping social distancing space line up to enter a Costco Wholesale store in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles on Saturday. "Transmission can be reduced by 50 (percentage points) when surgical masks are used, especially when masks are worn by infected individuals".
Four months after its first Covid-19 case was detected, Hong Kong has largely managed to contain the disease with just over 1,000 infections and four deaths.More news: India central bank pledges more easing as economy set to shrink