How effective are face masks at stopping the spread of COVID-19?

An international report published in The Lancet on 3 June, which analysed data from 172 studies in 16 countries, found that by wearing a face mask there is just a 3% chance of catching COVID-19. Paired with washing your hands and keeping a safe distance, this should keep us protected!

What type of mask should I be wearing?

It seems every brand, from Uniqlo to Off White, has started selling their own face masks. Face masks have now become the latest fashion trend. But, do they provide the same level of protection as the blue medical masks?

There is evidence to suggest that medical masks contain droplets better than face masks. Test out how effective your face mask is by trying to blow out a candle or lighter with the mask on. If the flame moves or is extinguished this means that the mask will not contain droplets, which defeats the point of wearing a mask.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 3 ply masks – the now common blue surgical masks – as they provide 3 layers of protection against bacteria, viruses, and other large droplets or bodily fluids while also being comfortable to wear and breathable. Whereas, fabric masks are usually only 1 ply.

How to wear a medical mask safely - Do’s

Clean your hands before touching the mask. Boris Johnsons’ top tip is to keep washing your hands for the period of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice!

Inspect the mask for damage. Make sure there are no tears or holes in the mask.

Only touch the bands or ties when putting on or taking off the mask.

The top of your mask should have a metal wire running through it. This can be used to adjust the mask around your nose.

We’ve all seen the memes – don’t be the person with your nose sticking out. Ensure that you cover your mouth, nose and chin.

I treat my mask like my underwear; I change it every day.”

It is very important to wash your fabric masks after each use in hot water.  Medical masks need to be disposed immediately after one use, preferably in an enclosed bin.

Mask mistakes to avoid

Do not wear a loose mask – a well fitted mask can also prevent your glasses from steaming up!

Do not wear the mask under your nose because you can still inhale the virus through your nose or exhale viral particles and spread them to other people. A study showed the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — infects the cells in your nose much more easily than the cells in your throat or your lungs.

Do not remove the mask where there are people within 1 metre. It is crucial we maintain social distancing. The mask does not only protect you, it protects all the people around you.

Masks do not work in the rain. A wet face mask is less effective because water restricts airflow and cuts the amount of viral filtering, scientists have warned.

Sharing is caring, but not when it comes to face masks! Do not share your mask with others. 

Wear your mask correctly, maintain social distance and keep your hands sanitised.

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