COVID-19 - When should we wear a face mask?

COVID-19 - When should we wear a face mask?

By Gero Baiarda, NHS GP and Consultant for The N95 Mask Co


Across the world, face masks are increasingly viewed as a vital requirement for us to be able to step out of lockdown, with some countries making mask-wearing in public compulsory. In Austria, people now have to wear face masks when shopping and in Germany, vending machines at train stations are being stocked up with masks in a bid to help curb the spread of coronavirus among commuters.  

Whilst UK officials are yet to make this decision on this, the Scottish government has already started recommending that people should use face coverings when in shops and on public transport. 

The purpose of wearing a face mask is to prevent the spread of any potential droplet-borne virus to others. The ‘stealthy’ Coronavirus symptoms can take up to a week to present themselves, meaning an infected person could contaminate others without realising. A mask such as the N95 would block 95 percent of the particles the wearer exhales, reducing the transmission to those around them.

So, when and where should we be wearing face masks?

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommend the use of face masks (N95 without a valve) to reduce potential pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 from the mask wearer to others.

It’s not necessary to wear a mask wherever you go, but rather in places where people congregate, including grocery stores, public transport and ride-shares. A face mask should always be worn at times when you might come into close proximity with other people outside of your own home - this could be in an open or closed space.

It’s simple. If you find yourself having to consciously maintain a 2-metre distance, you should be wearing a mask. If others aren’t, it’s because they aren’t aware of the risk, or because they haven’t bought a mask yet. Lead by example and be confident to wear a mask - you are protecting yourself and others.