Current advice on cloth masks and why they are recommended
Updated Friday 23 October 2020
Mouth and nose coverings are now strongly recommended over winter in indoor public settings.
COVID-19 is commonly spread through respiratory droplets which occur every time an infected person breathes out, talks, clears their throat or while coughing and sneezing. People infected with COVID-19 can spread it before symptoms occur and when they do not show symptoms at all. Wearing a mouth or nose covering helps to reduce these droplets from spreading to another person.
The risk of catching COVID-19 is increasing with many countries around us experiencing a second wave. As we move into winter the colder temperatures, cold and flu season, and increased time indoors can increase the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses affecting individual health and capacity of our healthcare system.
There is strong evidence that mouth and nose coverings (such as masks or face shields) are effective in reducing the spread of several respiratory viruses including COVID-19, especially when used alongside good hand hygiene, and physical distancing where possible.
For these reasons mouth and nose coverings are strongly recommended over winter in indoor public settings.
When you should use a mask or other mouth and nose covering
All islanders over the age of 11 are encouraged to wear a mouth and nose covering when outside the home. You should always use your own mask and not share someone else's.
Mouth and nose coverings are strongly recommended in enclosed public settings which feature the following:
- settings in which physical distancing cannot be guaranteed. This may include bottle necking in tight spaces, free-flowing movement, as well as queues and crowding especially during peak times
- settings which pose challenges for contact tracing. This may include a high number of people passing through throughout the day, an inability to monitor and enforce public health measures, and / or inability to collect or hold personal details
- in any health or care settings including when visiting care or residential homes and especially in settings in which patients / residents would be classed as moderate or high risk
- in any close-contact business setting
This includes but is not limited to:
- inside all shops and supermarkets including pharmacies, banks, post offices, larger petrol stations with food / retail aisles and inside covered indoor markets
- when using public and private-hire transport, including in buses and taxis, inside the bus station, when inside covered bus / taxi shelters, and when inside the airport or harbour
- inside healthcare settings such as hospitals, GP surgeries, dental surgeries, other health clinics and allied health services, such as chiropractors, and when visiting residential care homes
- when using close-contact services such as hairdressers, beauty salons, nail bars, sports and massage therapists, tattooists, piercers and similar
- by greeters, bar staff, waiting staff, baristas within restaurants, bars, cafes and any other member of staff who interacts with customers in a setting which serves food and drink (note this does not currently include customers)
A cloth mask is not a substitute for strict physical distancing or good hand and respiratory hygiene.
If you have symptoms of the virus, have tested positive or are a direct contact of a positive case, you should be in isolation. Having a mask does not mean that you can leave your home safely without transmitting the virus to others.
Who should not wear a cloth face mask
If wearing a cloth mask is problematic to health, causes distress or discomfort, then a clear face shield could be an alternative, which will still offer protection to others and the wearer.
Cloth masks or nose and mouth coverings should not be worn by children younger than 2 years old due to immediate health risks.
We also do not recommend that mouth and nose coverings should be worn by people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering (including a face shield) because of a physical or mental illness, impairment, or disability or if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause the user severe distress.
Children and cloth face masks
No child under the age of 2 years or any child unable to remove the mask by themselves 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, however we recommend children over the age of 11 to wear masks as per the guidance for adults. If choosing to use them with your child / children, all other advice on face masks should be followed.
Parents should note that wearing of masks on the public buses remains a condition of carriage for children over the age of 11.
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.
When masks are not recommended
Masks are not recommended are not recommended in the following circumstances:
- during exercise or strenuous activity
- in an emergency situation in which a mouth or nose covering may impede communication, or when emergency services personnel are working in their role
Is it mandatory?
Mouth and nose coverings are not mandatory and remain guidance, which means although wearing a cloth mask is strongly encouraged, it's up to the individual.
This position may change to in the future.
Masks will be continue to be mandatory as part of the Safer Travel Guidance and are a condition of carriage on LibertyBus.
Islanders at higher risk
People who are at high or moderate risk are strongly encouraged to wear cloth masks (or face shields) when visiting settings described above.
While COVID-19 activity is effectively controlled through our track and trace system, border testing, and the isolation of positive cases, mask wearing is an additional precaution for this group alongside other public health measures and local activity risk guidance.
Should the local situation change and it is felt that the local risk no longer be effectively managed, further guidance will be issued to this group, which could include a recommendation to wear clinical, rather than cloth masks, and to avoid indoor environments.
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.
Recommended types of mouth and nose coverings
Any type of home-made or commercially available mask is appropriate for community use as long as it covers both the mouth and nose.
Commercial or homemade masks are often made from fabric and are reusable and washable. Clinical type masks and dust masks are intended for single use before being disposed of.
There are two main types of reusable mouth and nose coverings which we recommend as they offer the best protection while balancing breathability and comfort – three layer fabric masks and clear face shields.
Three layer fabric masks
These are made from:
- an inner absorbent layer,
- a middle (often removable) filter layer
- non-absorbent outer layer
A mask with multiple layers of fabric are better than single layer masks.
Valved masks are not recommended as they do not filter particles when breathed out.
When choosing or making a mask always ensure it fits correctly and allows you to breathe easily.
Clear face shields
Clear face shields (or visors) offer a similar level of effectiveness as cloth masks and may be preferred in situations where the use of cloth masks is problematic or counter-productive. Examples could include: to aid communication (especially lip reading), if a mask would be worn for a longer period of time, in moist or damp environments and in situations in which cloth masks could be handled more often.
Putting on and taking off a cloth mask
Always wash your hands before and after touching your mask.
You should not wear a mask if it is:
- too loose
- looks damaged or dirty
- is too difficult to breath through
To put on a cloth mask:
- Hold the mask by the ear loops or edges to avoid touching the font of the mask
- Place the mask on your face making sure to covering your mouth, nose and chin
- If you need to adjust the mask do so by the edges or ear loops
To take off a
- Remove the mask by the ear loops taking care not to touch the front or inside of the mask
- Hold the mask by the ear loops or edges to avoid touching the font of the mask
- Store the mask inside a clean plastic bag (such as a sandwich bag) or a hard plastic container
Washing cloth masks
If a mask has a middle filter layer, we recommend replacing the filter at least daily and disposing of the old filter. It is important to wash and dry your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before handling a new filter and again after handling a used filter.
When washing masks we recommend a hot wash cycle around 60 degrees Celsius or higher with soap or detergent.
Do not use disinfectants to clean masks as these can soak into the fabric and later be breathed in causing health problems and/or skin irritation.
Storage and disposal of masks
It is important to store and dispose of masks properly, making sure to always wash your hands before handling a new mask and after handling a used mask.
To store a mask before or after use we recommend a non-porous disposable plastic bag (such as a sandwich bag) or a reusable sturdy plastic container that can be wiped with 70% to 90% alcohol and left for a minute to dry before re-use.
Single-use masks, inner filters and other fabric masks should be disposed of carefully in normal household waste bins (non-recyclable). Try to avoid touching the inside of a mask or the middle of a filter layer and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. If using an outdoor bin, try to use a bin with a closing lid.
If you are using a mask or covering whilst you are in a public indoor space for two hours or less, you should only need to change and wash your mask once back at home, so that it's ready for your next use.
If you are wearing a cloth mask for more than 2 hours you may need to change your mask, particularly if it becomes damp and uncomfortable.
If your mask has a middle filter layer you should change this daily. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your mask and/or filter.
If you are likely to wear a cloth mask for a prolonged period of time or find it causes discomfort you may prefer to use a face shield instead rather not wearing anything at all.
Cleaning plastic face shields
If your plastic face shield comes with its own specific cleaning instructions, we recommend you follow these carefully.
If your face shield does not come with instructions, we recommend cleaning them daily as a minimum or as deemed necessary depending on environment, how often they are handled and if there are signs of fingerprints or other marks in either side of the shield.
Face shields can be cleaned by submerging them in warm soapy water and gently rubbing with a soft sponge or cloth. Submerging rather than wiping results in less marks which could affect vision. Rinse the shield in running water and dry with a soft cotton towel, microfibre cloth or leave to air dry.
Just like with hand hygiene, soap and water removes microbes and viruses and is all that is needed.
While wiping with disinfectant may seem quick and easy this may not always be the case. If using disinfectant wipes or sprays, first ensure that the product is safe for use on plastics.
When disinfecting, follow the instructions on the disinfectant carefully including the wet contact time, and ensure to clean the inside and outside surfaces of the shield as well as any touch points. Disinfectants may also lead to visible residue on the shield which should be rinsed off with water to ensure good visibility. If you opt to regularly disinfect a face shield it should also be washed with soap and water whenever possible.