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How do I make one? When should I wear one? All you need to know about face masks

PUBLISHED: 09:55 16 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:18 18 May 2020

A customer wearing a face mask at the Thetford Garden Centre during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A customer wearing a face mask at the Thetford Garden Centre during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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As the message changes from “stay home” to “stay alert”, the government is advising the use of face coverings in enclosed areas as people begin to increase their number of social contacts.

The face masks given out to members of the public by University of East Anglia student Songze Chang. Picture: UEAThe face masks given out to members of the public by University of East Anglia student Songze Chang. Picture: UEA

In the government’s 50-page strategy, which gives details as to how the country will rebuild over the coming months, leaders are urging the public to wear a face covering where “social distancing is not always possible”.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) published findings from its research last month studying all existing data about whether using a face mask reduced the spread of illnesses with coronavirus-like symptoms to answer frequently asked questions.

What is a face covering?

A pedestrian wearing a face mask in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA pedestrian wearing a face mask in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

This face covering, also known as a face mask, covers the mouth and nose and is made of “cloth or other textiles” through which you can breathe, and is not to be confused with a medical-grade personal protective equipment face mask used by healthcare workers.

When should I wear one?

UEA’s research and government advice says only in certain areas. Wearing a mask on public transport, in shops and in crowded places showed potential to help protect vulnerable people from the virus. If attending an appointment at the doctors, hospital or dentist where they are not crowded there was “little chance” of protecting yourself.

A pedestrian wearing a face mask in Norwich amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Denise BradleyA pedestrian wearing a face mask in Norwich amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Denise Bradley

UEA research said for the majority of the population social distancing and good hand hygiene remained important.

The government’s latest advice is for people in England to wear the coverings in places where social distancing is not possible, such as on public transport or when visiting a supermarket.

More: Face masks could protect people from coronavirus, according to UEA professor

Amanda Middlebrook, retail assistant, wearing a face mask and a shield on the tills, with Clinton Wright in a shield as he supervises the queue at Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAmanda Middlebrook, retail assistant, wearing a face mask and a shield on the tills, with Clinton Wright in a shield as he supervises the queue at Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

So why should you wear one?

Dr Julii Brainard, from Norwich Medical School, said: “People who wore masks, usually surgical grade, were less likely to get respiratory symptoms from casual exposure in the community. It’s a small reduction in risk, but might be very important to especially vulnerable people.

“Wearing masks at home also seemed to reduce the odds of well housemates becoming ill. The risk reduction was greatest, a 19pc reduction, if both an ill person and their well contacts wore masks.”

Where is doing personalised ones?

While you can buy face coverings online, certain places are offering personalised options.

Along Come Norwich (ACN) has designed two Norwich City inspired face coverings in egg and cress and tartan designs.

The group closed pre-orders for a few days following an influx of orders, but announced on Saturday pre-orders were reopening. The coverings are due to arrive end of May to the beginning of June.

Proceeds from the masks, which cost £12 each, will be split between local causes and charities and the ACN flag fund.

To find out more and order visit alongcomenorwich.com/product/acn-face-masks-pre-orders/



Where do you NOT need to wear them?

Public Health England (PHE) said: “If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, such as on public transport or in some shops.”

There is no suggestion that you need to wear them outdoors in open spaces.

More: New £600m infection control fund announced to fight coronavirus in care homes



What’s the correct way to use a face mask?

UEA said it depends of the design of the mask and what kind of activities a person is doing. Each mask comes with its own instructions. A very general rule would be to assume a mask is no longer protective after wearing it for three hours. Wearers should wash their hands before they put on a mask, and importantly after they take it off and dispose of it.

Some fabric masks can be washed.

Do children need to wear them?

A PHE spokesman said: “In line with wider guidance for PPE and face coverings, they are not recommended for children
under the age of two or those who find them difficult to manage correctly, for example primary school children, unassisted or those with respiratory problems. We will set out further detail and guidance this week on how schools should facilitate protective measures.”

More: Protect Norfolk: New coronavirus campaign urges county to help stop spread



How can I make one at home?

A face covering should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably and can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head. Studies have shown that the best materials to use are tightly woven cottons or twill, natural silk or quilted cotton material, but you can also make do with what you have around your home.

There are various different ways to create a face covering – with many unique versions shown on social media, such as even using a sports sock or an old tea towel – but below is one method given by the government.

What you will need: An old T-shirt and scissors.

1. Cut a straight line across the width of the T-shirt (front and back) approximately 20cm from the bottom.

2. From a point 2cm below the top right-hand corner of the fabric, make a 15cm horizontal cut through both sides of the fabric that is parallel to the top of the rectangle.

3. Cut down towards the bottom of the fabric until you reach approximately 2cm above the bottom edge. From here, make another 15cm cut that runs parallel to the bottom of the fabric to make a rectangle that can be discarded.

4. To make the ties, cut open the edge of the two long strips of fabric. Unfold the main piece of fabric and place over the mouth and the nose.

The four strips act as ties to hold the cloth face covering in place and should be tied behind the head and around the neck.


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