Covid-19 / Coronavirus and walking in the United Kingdom
Guide to Face Masks and Eye Protection
If you are in an poorly ventilated space for an extended period of time, neither a face mask, nor "2m" distancing will protect you [Source].
Consider graded face masks and eye protection (goggles) if you are in a poorly ventilated area for an extended period.
Do not bet your life - and the life of others around you - on an ungraded fashion face mask!
Having said that, there are still few large scale community (i.e. not hospital) trials to confirm the use of face masks in protecting against covid-19.
This is the minimum you should aim for, they are now easily available and affordable.
- are designed to protect people around you against outgoing contamination, except for the 'R' in Type IIR, which is (bodily fluid) splatter resistant.
- are cheap - available in packs of 100!.
- protect again airborne particulates, e.g. aerosol (water molecules) containing covid-19, not virus or fumes (e.g. fire smoke or cigarette smoke) which are much smaller.
- Look for 'Type IIR' ( 'EN 14683 Type IIR', ~ 'ASTM F2100' ) grade surgical masks.
- Amazon UK: surgical face masks
This is the next step up, around £3 per mask
- 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 KF94 (Korea) are similar to P2 (EU). NB KN95 (China) is a self certified standard lacking Government control - so not as reliable.
- 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.
- Amazon UK: disposable P2 masks and P3 masks
- Screwfix: valved P3 masks (mail order, many UK branches) - JSP Flexinet (good quality) and JSP Fold Flat (fits in a pocket) both highly recommended.
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.
- Incredibly, there is still very little published evidence on the effectiveness of community (i.e. not hospital) use of face masks in protecting people from covid-19. Empirically, they are what medical staff in 'red zones' used, and survived.
- Face masks don't protect against smoking or other smells for example - the fumes are way smaller than the holes in the mask's fabric.
This is the gold standard - they can filter out individual virus particles
- 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.
- Amazon UK: 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.
- "[Medical trials] suggest that eye protection may [help], [but] comparative trials are needed to clearly determine effectiveness ... [in the] general populations." Source
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.