Covid-19 / Coronavirus and walking in the United Kingdom
Guide to Face Masks and Eye Protection
Consider graded face masks and glasses if you are car sharing, or using public transport for an extended period.
- Look for 'P3' (or 'FPP3', ~ 'N100' ) grade dust masks.
- Dust masks are designed to protect the wearer against incoming contamination.
- Grade P1 is worst, P3 is best. N95 (US) and KN95 (China) are similar to P2 (EU).
- There are 2 styles of graded dust mask, with and without a one-way breathe out filter valve.
- The 'valve' helps you breathe out, but doesn't protect people around you as it doesn't filter your outgoing breath.
- Valveless masks are more uncomfortable to use, but do protect people around you. This is why surgical masks do not have valves.
- Expect to pay £2 to £6 per mask.
- Look for 'Type IIR' ( 'EN 14683 Type IIR', ~ 'ASTM F2100' ) grade surgical masks.
- Surgical masks are designed to protect people around you against outgoing contamination, except for the 'R' in Type IIR, which is (bodily fluid) splatter resistant.
- Surgical masks are much cheaper - available in packs of 100!.
- Surgical masks protect again particulates, e.g. aerosol (water molecules) containing covid-19, not virus or fumes (e.g. fire smoke or cigarette smoke) which are much smaller.
Advice for both types
- Wash your hands before putting on or removing a mask to avoid contaminating it.
- Disposable masks use electrostatic capture to trap aerosol particle, which is ruined if they are washed.
- To disinfect and reuse a disposable mask, store it in a paper bag for 5 days (US CDC guidelines). Both dust and surgical masks are damaged by washing. Dry heat (to 160C) is the only home alternative.
- All masks, even ungraded ones, help you stop touching your face.
- There is no published evidence on the effectiveness of masks in protecting people from covid-19. Empirically, they are what medical staff in 'red zones' used, and survived.
- These look like WW2 gas masks, they can be 'half' (covering nose and mouth) or 'full' (covering the eyes as well)
- Dust and Surgical masks protect again particulates, e.g. aerosol (water molecules) containing covid-19, not virus or fumes (e.g. fire smoke or cigarette smoke) which are much smaller. DEpending upon the filter, these can protect against fumes and virus as well.
- Respirator masks are much more comfortable to wear as they have better breathe-out valves than disposable masks, but do not protect the people around you.
- To buy, follow the Amazon link, and search for a paint fumes full face respirator mask (i.e. like a WW2 gas mask).
- There is some evidence that wearing eye protection (e.g. glasses, wrap-around style sunglasses, goggles) helps. In China, people who use glasses were less likely to catch covid-19.
Where to buy masks
- Screwfix for P3 masks - a UK wide DIY chain. Also try Toolstation. Keep checking, they sell out quickly.
- Amazon for respirators, an example
I've used the 3M valved mask, its more comfortable to wear than a disposable valved mask. Of course, being valved, it doesn't protect the (non mask wearing) people around you.
Where to buy goggles
Screwfix is good for safety goggles. Recommended even if you don't use them for covid-19. During lockdown, there was an increase in DIY / gardening / craft eye accidents.