As of 27th July, wearing a face mask in certain situations is mandatory in England & Wales (similar regulations were already in place across Scotland and Northern Ireland). The following blog will hopefully help you make a decision on what face masks or face coverings to wear and when – useful links to official resources are provided to help you make a better decision.
The current rules vary in different parts of the UK, however in England you must wear a face covering in a number of indoor and public settings as stated below (This list was taken from the official guide on gov.uk):
Regulation states that you must wear a face covering before entering these settings and must keep it on until you leave – It is also stated that you should wear a face covering in indoor spaces not mentioned, when social distancing is difficult (such as a work place). There is no universal face coverings guidance for workplaces because of the variety of work environments in different industries. For example, in the hairdressing sector you are required to wear PPE, including a mask or face shield, while your clients must also wear a mask. We suggest looking to guidance from the regulatory body that oversees your area of business, if there is one, to be absolutely certain you are meeting requirements to protect your staff and customers/clients.
You can learn more about the regulations on gov.uk.
As stated on gov.uk – “A face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth”.
Not all face coverings are classified as PPE (such as surgical masks or respirators used in medical and industrial settings), some are reusable, while others are single-use. It is possible to use a scarf, a bandana, or religious garment but these must cover the nose and mouth completely, and fit securely around the side of the face and chin. These may not provide the level of protection a standard face mask may provide.
Face coverings can vary wildly, however the infographic below provides the information required on the most common types of mask being worn.
If you wish to learn more, please see the MHRA’s (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) regulatory status of equipment being used to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Face coverings are largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19). Just like with hand-washing and social distancing, the focus is on the protection of the people around you. This requirement for an individual to show empathy, compassion and respect for those around them should be commonplace. However, due to this – it is also common to find a number of myths, conspiracies and out-right lies being spread about masks and other forms of PPE.
COVID-19 is transmitted through the air via respiratory droplets from the mouth and nose via exhalation. As such, the more layers to a mask, or the tighter the wave of the fabric, the more likely it is to ‘catch’ these droplets when exiting your airways. Many shops online have started to sell mesh, lace, or loose weave cotton masks under of the guise of them being “easier to breath”, yet they have practically no e?ect.
The University of Arizona found that wearing a basic cotton covering cut the risk of infection by 24%, while a professional, medical-grade filtration mask could filter it by up to 99%. Many of the most effective masks, such as the N95 respirators, are quite rightly required by medical and health care workers – as such, when getting hold of masks for yourself, or your business, think about the type of service or work you do, and adjust your mask requirement.
While some of the early regulations from the WHO did not recommend wearing face coverings – as per further research it quickly became knowledge that COVID-19 can be spread by persons not experiencing symptoms. As such, just because you’re not feeling sick, and don’t think you on those in your household have been in contact with anyone, doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Protect those around you. Wear a mask.
We prefer to take the side of science, and regular common sense. The WHO states that prolonged use of surgical masks doesn’t lead to CO2 intoxication or lack of oxygen. Surgeons and medical professionals open wear masks for hours, sometimes an entire day, without removing them, while wearing gloves and doing physically draining work in hot conditions without any adverse effects. Medical professionals are also usually wearing higher grade masks with more layers, filters or tighter-woven fabric. Unless you have a pre-existing respiratory condition that gives you a medical exemption, then you shouldn’t ?nd it di?cult to wear a mask while at work or at the shop.
Unlike N95 masks, there is no regulatory body controlling the materials that go into, or the process of making the masks you buy from Amazon, eBay or etsy – or the masks you make at home. As such, you should still be observing social distancing guidelines, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.