Just like hand sanitisers and hygiene products, there is now a shortage of face masks. Due to the cases of the virus increasing rapidly, consumers have cleared stock both online and in the shops. This has led to many stores having to limit their sales and put restrictions on their stock.
Whereas independent sellers have now ramped up the price, selling face masks up to £150 for a pack of five, which had risen from £30 a few days prior. A pack like this will see you getting five uses out of the face mask, which you need to not reuse or allow to come into contact with your hands.
But are face masks essential during the outbreak? Health experts, scientists and medical professionals are all torn on whether they offer the vital protection the public needs.
Recent tests with other flu-like viruses have shown that the common surgical mask does not make significant reductions to the likelihood of catching or transmitting infections.
Other health experts, like Public Health England, have commented further warning that there is not enough evidence to suggest that face masks are effective outside a hospital environment or clinical setting.
Brendan Wren, professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, states that these face masks are not the ultimate protection to stop people from being infected, in fact it may even worsen the chances of the disease spreading.
‘I don’t think they do any good. They are smaller than air particles for pollution that we worry about. It will simply be breathed in.’
One of the encouraging uses of a face mask is that it stops the wearer from touching their face or putting hands in their mouth.
But it’s important to also be aware that touching the face mask with your hands without carrying out the proper use of hand hygiene still increases the chance of infection.
It is, therefore, more important and critical to perform diligent hand hygiene through the use of soap and hand sanitisers than it is to solely rely on face masks.
Even in the light of the evidence, more experts have further conducted lab tests on face masks used by medics in the NHS. The staff have been wearing these masks in fear that the illness is spread through the air just like flu, SARs and ebola.
The Health and Safety Executive began a study that used a special machine that sprayed droplets at an individual wearing the mask in order to replicate a sneeze or cough.
Different types of masks were used, which were sprayed multiple times from a metre away whilst breathing in.
The results showed:
If you choose to wear a face mask then the WHO insists that you should know how to use it and how to dispose of it carefully and correctly.
Why do some countries wear face masks and others don’t?
It’s important to know the risks also associated with wearing a face mask. The medical chief has warned that they can increase the spread if not used properly. This is because cheaper face masks can in fact trap the virus and cause the wearer to breathe it in.
“What tends to happen is people will have one mask. They won’t wear it all the time, they will take it off when they get home, they will put it down on a surface they haven’t cleaned.” Dr Harries, Chief Medical Examiner
It is because of this attitude that wearers can cause more of a risk than reduce one. However, those who have been instructed to wear one should follow healthcare guidance.
The argument is growing that any form of protection is better than none at all. The research suggests that it’s how you wear the mask that makes all the difference.
Academics have pointed out that if the mask is not tight to the nose or mouth then contamination can still penetrate, or even linger on the surface of the mask.
As mentioned above it all depends on the type of face mask you use as well. Other conditions like if the face mask becomes damp or wet can also heighten the risk of transmission and spread. Even coughing into the mask or sneezing can make matters much worse.
It’s recommended that face masks should be mostly worn when:
Constant use of the same face mask can also reduce its effectiveness at prevention.
Police forces are dealing with a 400% increase in online scams as many people take advantage of the coronavirus spread.
The reports have shown that many consumers have reported that they ordered protective face masks and other hygiene products which never arrived.
It is advised to take precaution shopping online and to pay through PayPal where you can to avoid being victim of online scams. Buy from trusted sources only and be wary of independent buyers and resellers on sites like Amazon and eBay.