Re: Never mind all the studies.. here are some to research..
A standard surgical mask is not very effective at filtering out any corona virus (influenza is a member of the corona virus family) normally, but when soaked in a solution of common salt plus a mild detergent like polysorbate 20 and dried again, then something magical happens.
The salt forms a layer on the polyester fibres of the mask. When a micro-aerosol happens to hit such a salt-coated fibre, it sticks and dehydrates rapidly. This deactivates the viruses therein permanently. Thus it is actually possible to make surgical masks into effective anti-virus filters.
That the government hasn't insisted on this is simple: it isn't actually necessary. The point of masks and face coverings are to limit the spread of aerosols; this cuts down the transmission rate of the virus. The infection severity for covid and other similar viruses is dose-dependent; a low amount of virus will cause no symptoms in the majority of cases and give some immunity to future infections.
Most of the deaths from covid have been where the patient has had repeated exposure to lots of virus. This causes more severe infection and much worse outcomes for the patient. This is why the advice is a lockdown, social distancing, and wearing masks to limit the amount of virus floating about in the environment.
As to the future, I do not think that this virus is going to mutate all that quickly. It is an animal virus that jumped species from bats to humans, presumably with one or more intermediates. There isn't the huge biological library of new genes for it to draw on like there is with influenza, which is both a bird disease and a mammal disease, and circulates freely between wild birds, domestic fowl, pigs and humans (all this in China, usually). No, we'll just have the few variants of covid that are about now and nothing much will change, until we sort out a vaccine.