As of 27th July, wearing a face mask in certain situations is mandatory in England and Wales. Similar regulations were already in place across Scotland and Northern Ireland. The following blog should help you make a decision on which face masks or face coverings to wear and when. You will also find useful links to official resources 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:
Regulations state that you must wear a face covering before entering these settings and must keep it on until you leave. Guidance also advises wearing face masks in indoor spaces 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 a face mask or face shield, while your clients must also wear a mask. We suggest looking into guidance from the regulatory body that oversees your area of business to be absolutely certain you are meeting requirements to protect your staff and customers.
More Government advice can be found on the gov.uk website.
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 only. It is possible to use a scarf, bandana or religious garment, but these must cover the nose and mouth completely and fit securely around the side of the face and chin. They 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 aim to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection. They cover the nose and mouth, which are the main sources of transmission of the 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 outright lies being spread about masks and other forms of PPE.
Respiratory droplets from the mouth and nose via exhalation transmit COVID-19 through the air. Therefore, the more layers to a mask or the tighter the wave of fabric, the more likely it is to catch these droplets. Many shops have starte selling finer masks under of the guise of them being “easier to breath”. However, they have practically no effect.
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 a necessity for medical and health care workers. As such, when sourcing 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, it’s possible to catch the virus even if you are not unwell or not in contact with anyone. Protect those around you and 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 often wear masks for hours, sometimes an entire day, without removing them. They also wear gloves and undertake 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 find it diffcult 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.