What is the latest advice on Facemasks and Face coverings?

see all articles on Coronavirus

There has been a great deal of debate about face coverings, which will be compulsory in all supermarkets and retail outlets from July 24th. What is emerging is that wearing a face-covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus. If you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with.

From the 24th July, anyone going to a corner shop, high street giant or supermarket, will have to cover up – or risk a £100 fine. The rules also apply on public transport and in all healthcare centres/hospitals. This includes wearing a face covering on any: Bus or coach, train or tram, ferry or hovercraft or aircraft. If you go to a restaurant, a pub or a hotel you are not required to wear a mask but you do need to wear one if you are going into a takeaway outlet but can be removed if you sit down and eat there. They are also optional in: Hairdressers and beauty salons, cinemas, concert halls and theatres, Museums, Dentists and opticians.

 

Do Face Masks protect you?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) originally said that healthy people only needed to wear a mask if they were taking care of a person with COVID-19.  But it has now updated its advice on face masks, saying that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks in situations where social distancing isn’t possible.

Evidence suggests that wearing a face-covering does not protect you. However, if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with. Face coverings do not replace social distancing and hand washing, which remain the key ways to prevent the virus from spreading. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, and/or high temperature, and/or loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste – anosmia), you and your household must isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this.

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.

Public Health England has said previously “Face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour in order for them to be effective”.

Uptake in the UK is still low compared with other countries. The latest polling from YouGov suggests that 38% of Brits are wearing a face mask when out in public, compared with 88% in Spain, 83% in China, 83% in Italy and 73% in the US.

 

 

Should everyone wear masks?

There are some exemptions to who should wear a face covering, including young children and people with breathing difficulties. In situations where face coverings are mandatory, legitimate reasons not to wear one include:

  • Children under 11 and people with certain disabilities will be exempt.
  • If you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip-reading to communicate
  • If you need to remove the face covering to eat, drink, or take medication
  • If a police officer or other official asks you to remove the mask
  • If you need to remove a mask or not wear one in an emergency situation to avoid harm or injury

Wearing masks in public is most beneficial in situations where you can’t properly keep your distance from other people but won’t have any protective effect while walking through deserted streets or in the countryside.

Do cloth masks work?

A cloth face covering should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably. It can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head. Experts recommend using 100% cotton fabrics or a cotton blend. To make your own Face Covering follow the link. It won’t protect you from getting Covid-19, but it might help prevent you from spreading the virus.

Cloth masks have large pores and allow moist air circulation – which means cloth masks are less likely to stop virus-contaminated droplets from getting through.

Face coverings help by catching the small droplets we sometimes spread when we talk or cough.

These can contain coronavirus bacteria and land on surfaces and other people. This can be an issue if someone has the virus, but no symptoms. By wearing a face covering you protect those around you and they protect you by wearing theirs.

How to use a face mask or cover?

To make sure your mask cover is sterile, you need to clean it properly. You also need to be careful how you put it on and take it off.

Putting on a mask.

1. Ensure you are using a clean mask.
2. Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
before touching the mask.
3. Pick up mask by touching ear loops (or ties) only.
4. Avoid touching the mask itself.
5. Hold both ear loops and place a loop around each ear.
6. Fit mask around mouth, nose, and chin.

While wearing a mask.

1. Mask should be either completely on or off; do notwear or rest under chin.
2. Never wear mask inside-out.
3. Remove mask if soiled or damp; do not reuse a singleuse mask.
4. Do not touch mask, face, or adjust mask while it is on.
5. If you touch mask, washhands with soap and water or hand sanitizer right away.
6. Always follow physical distancing and good hygiene practices.

Removing a mask

1. Grab ear loops only and lift the mask off ears.
2. Pull bottom of mask off and away from mouth and chin.
3. If you plan to reuse your mask right away, place it in a clean paper bag so it will not contaminate other surfaces. Otherwise, place it directly into your washing machine and follow the instructions below.
4. Do not touch mask, face, or adjust mask while it is on.
5. If it is a single-use mask, discard it directly into the bin.
6. Clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Home cleaning instructions for reusable cloth masks.

1. Wash the mask after use in your washing machine with HOT water using soap or detergent that leaves no residue.
2. Dry on HOT in your dryer.

Some Mask Rules

  • Do not buy and hoard medical masks. Health care professionals are already facing a great shortage in supplies, and we should not use protective masks that ill patients and health care workers may need.
  • Do not put a face mask on kids under 2 years old—or anyone who has difficulty breathing or might be unable to remove the mask themselves.
  • Do not remove a mask by its mouth area. Grab it by the straps. Wash your hands after touching it.
  • Do not just wear a standard bandana or scarf. Follow the instructions below to create a mask that has multiple layers and more tightly covers your face.

What should I do?

Social distancing and frequent hand washing remain the best ways to prevent viruses spreading between you and other people.

But experts have always maintained that, while the masks and face coverings may not shield someone from contracting the illness, they stop the wearer from infecting others.

This may have been more important than initially thought now that researchers know infected people are contagious for several days before they have symptoms.

The virus can be transmitted via droplets that are released when an infected person talks, breathes, coughs or sneezes.

If you choose to wear a mask, do not wear it for many hours – four or five hours at most each day. And only wear it when you are in contact with other people, and change it if it becomes damaged or dirty.

Masks/face coverings can become contaminated from use, not only by COVID-19 but by other bacteria and viruses, so they should be disposed of carefully, making sure to wash your hands afterwards. It’s also important to never share your mask with someone else for this reason.

Advice is changing daily on best practice for individuals to protect themselves from COVID-19, we recommend always referring to the latest Government Advice.