Are we required to wear face masks?
Yes, unless you are under a specific age, have certain health conditions, or have a disability. There are exemption badges that are available for people who are more comfortable wearing a badge that states you are not required to wear one. However, it is a personal choice for everyone to make.
Although everyone in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England are now required to wear a face mask or another type of face covering, while on public transport, disabled people, those with breathing issues, and young children are exempt from this requirement.
In England, all hospital outpatients and visitors are required to wear a face covering.
Does it matter what type of face mask you wear?
Yes, it does. Different kinds of masks provide different protection levels. Surgical grade N95 respirators provide the highest protection level against Covid-19 infection. Surgical grade masks offer the second-highest protection level. However, those masks are expensive, there are limited supplies, are uncomfortable to wear for a long period of time, and contribute to our landfill waste. Even countries that are requiring people to wear face masks in public have tended to suggest that those types of masked should be reserved for those at especially high risk and for health workers.
The evidence is less clear on the protective value of reusable cloth coverings or single-use paper masks but still indicates that face masks do help to reduce Covid-19 transmission. According to an analysis conducted by the Royal Society says this includes homemade cloth face masks as well.
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Is a cloth mask okay or is a paper surgical single-use mask better?
The evidence on using a mask, other than a surgical mask, is still ongoing. There does appear to be a benefit. However, the precise parameters of which are the best masks and the extent to how much they protect the mask wearer and those around them are being determined still. It is probably better to have a tighter fitting mask around the face. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US suggests that any kind of covering is better than none, including a bandana.
One study conducted in the US looked at which house materials removed particles of 0.3 to 1.0 microns in diameter is best, which is the normal size of bacteria and viruses. That conclusion was that good options include multiple material layers, heavyweight quilters cotton, and vacuum cleaner bags. Bandana and scarves materials were not as effective but did still capture some of the particles.
How do you safely take a mask on and off?
Before you put a mask on, thoroughly wash your hands with water and soap. Cover your nose and mouth was a mask and then make sure that are not any gaps between your mask and face. While using it, avoid touching your mask. If you do, then wash your hands. When your mask gets damp, replace it. To take your mask off, use elastic tags, and do not touch the front. Then immediately discard it into a closed bin. If your mask is reusable, place it in your washing machine directly.
How often does your mask need to be washed?
You should wash it after each use. It is suggested by the CDC that you wash it “routinely.”
Are there any environmental concerns?
Many masks that are commercially available are made out of layers of plastics and have been designed as single-use masks. University College London scientists conducted an analysis that showed that if every individual in the UK were to use a single-use mask daily for one year, it would create an additional 66,000 tonnes in contaminated plastic waste. If the general population used reusable masks it would significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste and impact on climate change more than any policy requirements on wearing a face mask, says the UCL team. They said that based on the best evidence that reusable masks can do most of the tasks that single-use masks do without adding to the waste stream.