Face Coverings FAQs

Face Masks

In this article weíll look at some frequently asked questions about face masks.

Face Coverings FAQs

With the new rules that came into effect on the 24th July regarding the use of face coverings, you might have a lot of questions about them. Below weíll look to answer some of these questions, including if you need to wear a certain type of mask if youíre high risk.

Where do I need to wear a mask?

The current rules state that itís mandatory for everybody travelling on public transport to wear a mask. This includes buses, coaches, trains, tubes, ferries, trams, and planes. Some people, like children younger than 11, people with a disability, and those with certain health conditions are exempt. The rules also do not apply to school transport or taxis, however, some firms may put in place their own policies.

As well as on public transport, you are required to wear a mask when visiting shops. This includes garden centres, clothes shop, hairdressers, and the supermarket. [1]

What if I donít wear a mask?

If you donít have a mask or refuse to wear one, transport operators and shops could ask you to put one or refuse service. The police can also issue a £100 fine, reduced to £50 if you pay within 14 days.

How do I wear a face mask?

The correct use of a face mask can make all the difference for its effectiveness. The World Health Organization [2] recommends:

  • Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
  • To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Are masks medical grade?

Medical face masks can be broken down into 2 main categories: surgical masks and respirators.

Some masks you might have heard of are:

  • Type I Face Mask
  • Type I R Face Mask
  • Type II Face Mask
  • Type II R Face Mask
  • FFP2 Face Mask
  • FFP3 Face Mask
  • N95 Face Mask

Type I and Type I R face masks have a Bacterial Filtration Efficiency of 95% where Type II and Type II R face masks have a BFE of 98%.

Type I, I R, II, and II R, face masks are medical masks that stop the wearer from transmitting infection.

Type II face masks (EN14683) are 3 ply masks that prevent large particles reaching the patient or working surfaces. Type II masks normally have a pleat style with ear loops or ties.

Type II R face masks are 4 ply masks that include a splash resistant layer to protect against blood and other bodily fluids. These masks also typically have a plated style and ear loops or ties, but they have 4 layers rather than 3.

FFP2, FPP3, and N95 masks protect the wearer from viral transmission.

FFP2 masks are an equivalent of N95 masks. These masks meet the World Health Organisationís guidelines for protection against Covid-19. FFP2 masks have a minimum of 94% filtration percentage. They are not shaped to your face but are simply held in place by elastic ear loops and have a typical lifespan of 3-8 hours, depending on environmental factors.

FFP3 face masks have the highest filtration at 99%. These masks have a better seal against your face and typically have a valve to help you breathe as the filtration material is much thicker. The valve can also help to reduce the build-up of moisture within the mask, extending its usefulness. [3]

What mask do I need to comply with guidelines?

Any face covering that covers your nose and mouth, ideally made from fabric, is suitable.[1] Public health England has released a guide on how to make a cloth face covering.

How often do I need to change the filter in my mask?

The disposable filter in your mask should be replaced after every use.

Do I need to wear a different mask if I am high risk?

Cloth face coverings and surgical masks do not stop the virus from getting in, but re more suited to stopping it from getting out. If you are high risk and unable to isolate, you may want to consider an FFP2, FFP3 or N95 mask to help to protect yourself from viral transmission. However, there are no guidelines that state you need to wear a certain type of mask if you are high risk.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

[2] https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks

[3] https://www.dental-nursing.co.uk/news/covid-19-a-guide-to-face-masks