Latest advice from the government suggests we should consider wearing some sort of cloth face covering in enclosed public places, such as in shops or on public transport, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
It doesn’t mean wearing medical grade face masks, which should be reserved for those on the frontline of healthcare, but just masking the mouth and nose with some kind of covering. It could be a scarf, a bandana, or the type of face mask used for DIY jobs to prevent inhaling dust.
Medical research on the effectiveness of using face coverings remains unclear. The best evidence suggests it could be useful in stopping you passing on the virus if you have it but don’t know you have. If you do know, then you should be self-isolating.
Another concern is that some people using face coverings might mistakenly think it makes them safer than they actually are and become complacent about their risk of catching the virus. If you wear a face cover you should still observe social distancing and follow all the other guidelines such as regular handwashing and sanitising.
If you choose to use a cloth face cover, it should cover your mouth and nose, while still allowing you to breathe comfortably. You should wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on and after taking it off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have a chance to wash them.
Avoid touching the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose. Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched. You should wash a face covering regularly. It can go in with other laundry, using your normal detergent.
The government website dedicated to coronavirus has instructions on how to make a cloth face covering from an old T-shirt or, if you’re competent with a needle and thread or a sewing machine, how to make your own at home. You can find the full instructions by clicking here, but reproduced below are the simple instructions for making a face covering from an old T-shirt using just a pair of sharp scissors.
Step 1: Cut a straight line across the width of the T-shirt (front and back) approximately 20cm from the bottom of the T-shirt, as shown in the image above. Ideally you should use a T-shirt which is sized small or extra small, to avoid making a mask which is too big.
Step 2: From a point 2cm below the top right-hand corner of the fabric you’ve just cut off, make a 15cm horizontal cut through both sides of the fabric that runs parallel to the top of the rectangle.
Step 3: Cut down towards the bottom of the fabric until you reach approximately 2cm above the bottom edge. From here, make another 15cm cut that runs parallel to the bottom of the fabric to make a rectangle that can be discarded.
Step 4: To make the ties, cut open the edge of the 2 long strips of fabric. Unfold the main piece of fabric and place over the mouth and the nose. The 4 strips act as ties to hold the cloth face covering in place and should be tied behind the head and around the neck.
If you’re intending to use a face covering frequently you should make several and change and wash them regularly.