Since the first outbreaks began, the use of face masks by the general public has been a highly debated and deeply confusing topic. if you’ve been wondering why, why and where this new normal is required, look no further.
After initially claiming that only medical professionals needed to wear face masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its stance on the matter.
The rules then changed to instruct people to wear cloth face coverings, especially stressing its importance in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as in food shops or pharmacies.
Who does it protect?
There is a coming misconception that face coverings protect the wearers, when really they should be worn to protect other people from coronavirus, rather than yourself.
Only medical-grade face masks -such as the N95 OR N100 model- (that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical professionals) can filter out a high enough percentage of airborne viral particles to prevent infection, says Bruce Y. Lee, MD, a professor of health policy at CUNY School of Public Health in New York City and the founder of Public Health Informatics Computational Operations Research (PHICOR)
They can also help to reduce the spread of the virus from infected people who are still contagious, including those who have no symptoms (or haven’t developed them yet). Robert Redfield, MD, said that as many as 25 percent of people with the coronavirus show no signs of infection in an NPR interview on March 30.
Does everyone have to wear one?
No. there are certain groups of people are exempt from having to wear them.
- under 11 in England or Wales
- under 13 in Northern Ireland
- under 5 in Scotland
- Those unable to put on or wear a face-covering because of a physical or mental illness or disability
- People for whom wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
- Anyone assisting someone who relies on lip-reading to communicate
When is it mandatory to wear one?
Across the UK (other countries have different laws, each country is monitoring their cases and adjusting their restrictions as they see fit) there are a number of places where wearing a face mask is compulsory. You can be asked to leave, refused service or even fined £200 for not wearing a face-covering in these locations.
These places include:
- Travelling on public transport
- In shops, supermarkets and shopping centres
- Banks, building societies and post offices
And when open according to the tier system and local restriction rules the following as well:
- When not seated at a table at a hospitality venue
- e.g when going to the bathroom in a bar, or when walking to your table in a restaurant
- Places of worship
- Museums, galleries and entertainment venues
- Libraries and public reading rooms
When can I take it off?
Yes they’re uncomfortable, itchy and annoying but we all want to keep each other safe so we endure it and wear it. There are however certain situations where it is socially and -most importantly- legally acceptable to take it off.
You can take it off when:
- You need to eat, drink, or take medication
- A police officer or other official asks you to, or for shop staff to verify your age
- You are entering a shop to avoid harm, if you do not have a mask on you
- Young children should not wear face masks because of the risk of choking and suffocation
Click here to see full list of UK government Coronavirus advice