Alongside wearing gloves, washing your hands frequently, and practicing social distancing, wearing a face mask helps limit the spread of viruses such as COVID-19. As of early May 2020, 88% of the world’s population live in countries that recommend or mandate the use of face masks in public. In fact, more than 75 countries have mandated the use of face masks.

In this article, we explain the importance of wearing face masks, explore the different types of face masks available, and how/where to use them.

Why face masks are important for COVID-19

According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 is primarily spread by droplets from someone who is coughing, sneezing, or even talking within a few feet away. So, how do we limit these droplets from being dispersed into the air?

Face masks.

surgical face masks

A recent study published in Health Affairs compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 US states. This study found that mask mandates resulted in a slowdown of the daily COVID-19 growth rate. A similar study looked at COVID-19 deaths across 198 countries and found that those with mask-wearing government policies in place had lower death rates.

There are many studies supporting the effectiveness of face masks, and it’s recommended that people use even a simple face covering when going out in public. In addition to the use of face masks, it’s crucial people follow other preventive measures such as social distancing, regular hand washing, and not touching their face.

Types of face masks

There are 3 main types of face masks. Disposable face masks, respirators, and cloth face coverings. Let's take a further look into each type. 

1. Disposable face masks

Disposable face masks are a form of personal protective equipment (PPE) that fit loosely over the nose and mouth. They’re designed to catch droplets from the nose or mouth that could otherwise infect the surrounding environment. Disposable masks are not effective at protecting the wearer from airborne diseases such as COVID-19.

The difference between Type I and Type II face masks

There are various grades of face masks that represent the level of protection they offer. For example, Type I and Type 1 R face masks have a BFE (bacterial filtration efficiency of 95%, whereas Type II and Type II R face masks have a BFE of 98%.

Type I face masks are recommended for general use by civilians, in situations where social distancing cannot be adhered to, such as on public transport and in shops.

Type II face masks are recommended for low-risk clinical applications where there’s no risk of exposure to blood and/or body fluid and unlikely exposure to viruses.

Type II R surgical masks should be used by the NHS, outpatient community and social care, independent sectors and dental applications where there’s risk to exposure of blood and/or body fluid and viruses.

Disposable masks breakdown:

  • Masks are loose fitting, covering the nose and mouth
  • Masks are not designed to protect the wearer
  • They are designed for one-way protection, to capture droplets leaving the wearer
  • Example of use – masks are worn in public to prevent coughing, sneezing on to other people
Type I face mask

2. Respirators

Respirators sit snug around the face, forming a seal around the nose and mouth. They consist of tangle fibres to filter pathogens in the air and are used by healthcare workers who require high levels of protection. Respirators work by either filtering particles in the air, chemically cleaning the air, or supplying clean air from an outside source.

Like masks, respirators are graded into different standards of protection. In Europe, there are two different standards. The Filtering Face Piece (FFP) comes from EN standard 149:2001, and the EN 143 standard covers P1/P2/P3 ratings. The most commonly discussed respirator type is the N95, an American standard managed by NIOSH. Here’s how the different standards compare:

Respirator standard Filter Capacity
FFP1 & P1 At least 80%
FFP2 & P2 At least 94%
N95 At least 95%
FFP3 & N99 At least 99%
P3 At least 99.95%
N100 At least 99.97%

Respirators break down:

  • Respirators are tight fitting and designed to create a facial seal
  • These are designed to protect the wearer up to the safety rating of the mask
  • Respirators provide two way protection by filtering both inflow and outflow of air
FFP2 respirator mask

3. Cloth face coverings

Cloth face coverings can be made using a variety of fabrics and items of clothing, including t-shirts, bandanas, scarves and pillowcases. This study investigated which household materials best removed particles of 0.3-1.0 microns in diameter, the typical size of viruses and bacteria. It was concluded that heavyweight cottons or multiple layers of material were good options, where scarves and bandana material were less effective.

In short, cloth face coverings won’t stop the spread of COVID-19 by any means, but they’re worth using a temporary solution when going out in public.

cloth face coverings

Where can I buy face masks?

At SANIQUE, we offer a range of disposable face masks and respirators to help people prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our face mask range includes Type I, Type II and Type II R surgical masks, as well as FFP2 respirator face masks. Our entire range is available to buy in bulk for huge discounts and is in stock for immediate purchase. So, if you’re looking to protect yourself, colleagues and customers during COVID-19, take a look at our face mask offering today. Alternatively, speak to one of our experts and we’ll let you know how we can help.

How to wear a face mask safely

Applying a face mask correctly sounds simple. But there are common mistakes people make. When applying your face mask, be sure to:

  • Ensure the face mask doesn’t cause any difficulties with breathing
  • Fit the covering as snug as possible, limiting gaps between the mask and face
  • Make sure the mask can be secured to prevent slipping
  • If not disposable, wash the face covering after use
  • When removing the mask, do so from behind to avoid touching the front

Face mask frequently asked questions

With the rise of COVID-19, it’s to no surprise there are many questions being asked surrounding face masks. We’ve answered some commonly asked questions below.

1. Will a face mask stop me getting COVID-19?

Evidence suggests that face masks can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, the use of face masks will not guarantee protection against the virus. Face masks should be seen as a preventative measure alongside regular hand washing and social distancing.

2. Is it mandatory to wear face masks in shops and supermarkets?

As of 24th July, the use of face masks will be required by law when entering shops and supermarkets in England. Those who don't comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £100. For those in Scotland, the use of masks in shops has been mandatory since 10th July.

3. Is it mandatory to wear face masks in a workplace?

Wearing face masks within a workplace is not required by law. Although, if you choose to wear one, it’s important to use them properly by washing your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

4. Is it mandatory to wear face masks on public transport?

As of June 15th, face masks are required by law to be worn on public transport in England and Scotland. This includes bus, coach, train, tram, ferry, and aircraft passengers. There are some exceptions though. Select groups of people are exempt from the new rules on face coverings including:

  • Children under 11 years of age.
  • People with breathing difficulties.
  • Those travelling with someone who relies on lip reading.
  • People unable to put on, wear or take off a mask due to a disability.

5. Is it mandatory to wear face masks in a hospital?

As well as public transport, it's now mandatory to wear a face mask when visiting a hospital or attending as an outpatient in England. This law doesn't stand for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland as of 9th July 2020.

6. Should I wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic?

When out in public, it’s recommended you wear a face mask to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 as much as possible.

To conclude

The use of face masks is highly recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially if someone is likely to be near others for an extended amount of time.

The effectiveness of face masks varies depending on the type, and the type someone should wear depends on the situation at hand.

For assistance with face masks and any questions you may have on this topic, feel free to contact us at SANIQUE, we’d be more than happy to help.

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