BlogCoronavirus & Face Masks Explained

Coronavirus & Face Masks Explained

Coronavirus & Face Masks Explained

Coronavirus & Face Masks

What Is Coronavirus & How Does It Spread?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Transmission can occur by direct contact with infected people and indirect contact with surfaces in the immediate environment or with objects used on the infected person. 

Preventing & Slowing Down Transmission

The WHO says the best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face. In many countries it is mandatory to wear a face mask or covering in public to help prevent transmission.

Mask-wearing has been compulsory on public transport in England and at NHS facilities across the UK since 15 June 2020 and wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is to become mandatory from 24 July 2020.

Face Coverings Versus Face Masks

A face covering is a piece of material that covers the nose and mouth and ties around the head and can be made from any material. It can even be a scarf or bandana. It is needed when travelling on public transport and when you go to a hospital as a visitor or outpatient, or when you travel on an airplane. 

Face coverings are compulsory in shops and supermarkets in Scotland and from Friday 24th July in England. 

Face masks are medical grade and normally used for healthcare workers and those who encounter work-related risk of COVID-19. They offer different levels of protection and filtration both for not infecting people when you breathe out but also the higher grades protect you from coronavirus when you breathe in as well. People who are vulnerable to coronavirus may prefer the extra level of protection that face masks provide compared to face coverings.

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Selecting The Right Face Mask Or Covering

Types Of Face Masks

There are broadly two types of masks:

  • Ones that protect OTHERS when you breath out.

    Type I, I R, II and II R face masks stop the wearer from infecting the surrounding environment.
    They are not effective at protecting the wearer from airbourne diseases such as coronavirus.

    Type I have a BFE (bacterial filtration efficiency) of 95%.

    Type II have a BFE (bacterial filtration efficiency) of 98%.
    They are 3-ply construction and are not certified effective when blood or bodily fluids are present. (EN14683)

    Type IIR are 4-ply construction with a splash resistant layer to protect against blood and other bodily fluids. (EN14683)

    The breathing and splash resistance for Type I R and Type II R masks are the same.

  • Ones that protect YOU when breathing in, as well as protecting others when you breath out.

    These protect you from COVID-19 when you breath in. FFP2 and FFP3 are European classes of respirators.

    FFP2 Face Mask  EN 149: 2001
    These have a minimum of 94% filtration percentage and a maximum of 8% leakage to the inside. These masks are not shaped to your face but are simply held in place by the elastic earloop and have a typical lifespan of 3-8 hours depending on environmental factors. 

    N95 Face Mask
    This is the equivalent WHO standard to FFP2 but cannot be officially legally recommended for use in Europe. 
    However, with PPE shortages these are being seen as an alternative. 
    Note: KN95 face masks are not all certified for use in the UK.

    FFP3 Face Mask EN 149: 2001
    These are the most effective at filtration, with a minimum filtration of 99% and a maximum leakage of 2% to the inside and typically have a valve to help breathe as the filtration material is much thicker. The valve reduces the build up of moisture and lengthens the lifespan of the mask. FFP3 masks are only required when managing a patient/client with possible/confirmed COVID-19 who is undergoing an Aerosol Generating Procedure (AGP) and when there are COVID-19 patients in High risk unit (ICU/ITU/HDU). The masks are only protective if you have been trained and tested in the correct method of application.

    Homemade Masks
    During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, some people are using homemade face coverings. These are likely to be less effective than manufactured face coverings and face masks and may convey a false sense of security to the wearer and people they are near. 

Face Coverings & Face Masks For Flying

Government guidance is that you need to use a face covering for flying. However in order to better protect yourself against infection when you breath in, you would need to use FFP2 or FFP3 face masks. 

Counterfeit Face Masks

We recommend buying off trusted sources to be confident you are receiving genuine products. 

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