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Wearing a cloth mask to delay the spread of coronavirus

​Updated advice on cloth masks

We advise all Islanders to cover their mouth and nose with a scarf, snood, folded cloth or cloth mask when outside of home, especially during shopping trips for essential supplies and on public transport.

A cloth mask is not a substitute for strict physical distancing or good hand and respiratory hygiene. 

If you have symptoms of the virus, you should be in household isolation. Having a mask does not mean that you can leave your home safely without transmitting the virus to others.

Below we have answered some frequently asked questions to help guide you as decide how when and if it would be appropriate for you to use a cloth mask.

About cloth masks

A cloth mask refers to a homemade mask or an adapted piece of clothing e.g. scarf, snood, or folded cloth or t-shirt used as a material barrier across your nose and mouth. 

Cloth masks and other nose and mouth coverings have been recommended as an addition to physical distancing, to reduce the likelihood of the wearer passing on the virus to others, and to protect the wearer.   

The cloth protection may help stop droplets generated when talking, coughing and sneezing reaching another person, protecting them from being infected.  This may be particularly important in reducing the likelihood of people who have no or very mild symptoms unknowingly spreading the virus to others. 

What if you haven't got a cloth mask?

Not everyone will have a cloth mask, but the production of commercial cloth masks is increasing. Those without a mask should not worry. You can always use a scarf, snood or folded cloth or t-shirt to cover your nose and mouth when outside your home.

How to make a cloth mask

The best way to wear a cloth mask

The mask, scarf, snood or other material barrier should completely cover your nose and mouth.

When you should use a mask or other face covering

The public should cover their mouth and nose with a scarf, snood, folded cloth or cloth mask when outside of home especially, but not exclusively, during shopping trips for essential supplies and when on public transport.

Those delivering essential services should also cover their nose and mouth.

A cloth mask is not a substitute for strict physical distancing or good hand and respiratory hygiene. They are also a useful addition for essential workers where appropriate.

Who should not wear a cloth face mask

Cloth masks or nose and mouth coverings should not be used by children younger than 2 years or anyone who has trouble breathing or who would not be able to remove the mask themselves.

Is it mandatory? 

You need to wear a mask to travel on a bus. It is guidance, which means that, although wearing a cloth mask is strongly encouraged, it's up to the individual. This position may change to becoming mandatory, if necessary.   

Instructions on how to make cloth masks

There are lots of examples of masks and how to make them on the Internet. 

The most effective type of mask will have multiple layers of tightly woven material like nylon or cotton, with a soft cotton layer for the inside. You should avoid wool and other fabrics that can cause allergies or irritate your face.

Effective masks will completely cover your mouth and nose. 

Health or care workers

Cloth mouth and nose coverings are not PPE. Under no circumstances would a cloth mask be a suitable substitute for personal protective equipment (PPE) in any clinical setting. 

However, cloth masks may be appropriate for health and care workers in certain circumstances which are not patient facing. 

Further information on the circumstances in which PPE is necessary and those in which cloth masks may be appropriate is available on PPE guidance for healthcare professionals and other essential workers.

Children and cloth face masks

No child under the age of 2 years or any child unable to remove the mask or with breathing difficulties should wear a face mask. The wearing of cloth face masks for all other children is the decision of their parent or guardian. If choosing to use them with your child / children, all other advice on face masks should be followed. 

Essential workers across our services may be using face masks when working closely with children to reduce the risk of unknowingly passing on the infection. 

Breast feeding and cloth face mask

If you are breast feeding you should consider wearing a cloth mask or other material barrier if available.

How long should I wear a cloth mask for?

If you are using a mask or covering whilst you are out for two hours, you should only need to change and wash your mask once back at home, ready for the next day. 

If you are an essential worker and wearing a cloth mask for more than 2 hours, you may need to change your mask a few times a day to ensure they remain comfortable.

Cloth masks should only be changed when you can wash your hands. Remove from the back and place in a plastic bag for laundering. Do not allow the used mask to come into contact with other surfaces.

When you are wearing your mask, avoid touching it and continue to wash your hands regularly.

Washing cloth masks and re-use

Yes. Once used, place in a plastic bag. Always wash your hands after removing a cloth mask. Ideally, used masks should be washed in a machine and tumble dried. If this is not possible, they should be handwashed using detergent and hot water (this will wash away any contaminants) and left to dry. Ironing the masks will provide a further form of decontamination.    If you are an essential worker, you should place each mask in a plastic bag and take home to wash and use a new mask. Always wash your hands after removing a face mask. 

Washing masks repeatedly will eventually degrade the material reducing its effectiveness, so worn masks need to be replaced. 

Cloth masks and coronavirus

We cannot say with great certainty what the impact of wearing cloth masks will be. However, wearing masks or covering your face in public reduces the dispersal of droplets from the wearer to others and this can only be beneficial and we must use all the helpful responses we can muster.  Wearing a cloth mask is considered helpful on the basis that it is an additional response that individuals can take to help reduce the spread of infection in Jersey. As an additional measure, using cloth masks could well contribute to flattening the curve of cases in Jersey and therefore save lives. It should also remind all of us to strictly observe physical distancing.

Why has this guidance come out now?

There has been growing public and scientific interest in the use of cloth masks in public areas. There is limited scientific information on the use of cloth masks and reducing the spread of COVID-19 because it's a new virus, but there is good supportive evidence from managing other infections and other observations making it reasonable to conclude that they will help.  Furthermore, in the last two days, both the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both updated their position to support the use of cloth masks in public as an additional step to reduce the spread of infection. Several countries in Europe, such as the Czech Republic, Austria and some parts of Germany, have already recommended this.

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