Some members of the public may choose to wear a mask in situations where it is not feasible to maintain physical distancing e.g. on public transport and/or if they are at increased risk of severe illness if infected (e.g. because of their age or a chronic medical condition). Should you choose to wear a mask, it is important to do so safely to avoid increasing the risk of infection to yourself and others.
How to put on a disposable face mask:
- Wash your hands before putting on the mask
- Make sure it covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face.
- Do not touch the front of the mask while it is on or when removing it (and if you do so accidentally, wash or clean your hands immediately)
- Wash your hands after removing the mask
There are different types of masks – which one should I use?
The term ‘face mask’ includes cloth masks and single-use face masks (commonly called surgical masks). Both masks are suitable for use to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Cloth masks are any nose and mouth covering made of washable fabric. We recommend a cloth mask made of three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics to ensure adequate protection. It does not need to be surgical quality to be effective.
Surgical masks are made with a non-woven meltblown polypropylene layer and available in various levels of protection. These are single use masks only so can’t be washed and used again.
Remember, a face mask is not a substitute for other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- staying at home when unwell, with even mild respiratory symptoms
- physical distancing (staying >1.5 m away from others)
- hand hygiene (and avoidance of touching potentially contaminated surfaces)
- cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene
Inappropriate use of masks is associated with risk, such as;
- they provide a false sense of security and may result in neglect of more important measures
- the use of a mask, alone, will not prevent infection
- touching the mask during use or when removing it can contaminate the hands
- risks are compounded if masks are pulled down or removed to consume food or drink
- single-use masks should not be reused, and discarded immediately after use
- masks will be less effective if they become damp or damaged
- many commercially available masks are of low quality and likely to be ineffective
- P2 or N95 masks should not be used as they are difficult to put on and take off safely
People with chronic respiratory conditions should seek medical advice before using a mask.