Image Credit: Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science
As from Saturday 13th February 2021, it is a legal requirement that face coverings must be worn in certain specific indoor public spaces and on all public transport in the Bailiwick. Failure to do so could result in a Fixed Penalty of £100.
A list of those indoor public spaces where one must wear a face covering can be found on the States of Guernsey COVID-19 website. Although not a legal requirement, people are strongly advised to wear a face covering when exercising or undertaking other recreational activities, particularly in urbanised areas or in areas where other people are partaking recreational activities.
In the context of the current coronavirus outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth and can include a scarf, bandana, or hand-made cloth covering, although these must fit securely round the side of the face. The primary purpose of face coverings is to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection by covering the nose and mouth – the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
While your author is all for protecting others, I would like to feel that a face covering will afford me some degree of protection, especially having seen the kind of unsuitable badly fitting face coverings being worn by some individuals when doing their shopping.
So, how effective are scarves, bandanas, and hand-made cloth coverings?
According to a new study from Oxford’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, cloth face coverings, even homemade masks made of the correct material, are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 – for both the wearer and those around them. Indeed, Professor Melinda Mills, Director of the Leverhulme Centre and author of the study, claims:
“The general public does not need to wear surgical masks or respirators. We find that masks made from high quality material such as high-grade cotton, multiple layers and particularly hybrid constructions are effective. For instance, combining cotton and silk or flannel provide over 95% filtration, so wearing a mask can protect others.“
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) currently recommends face coverings which meet the European FFP2 standard, or greater. In support of this, the WHO cites studies which show the filtration systems of FFP2 masks is around 95 per cent effective. Based on this advice, countries such as Austria and Germany have made the wearing of FFP2 face coverings a requirement on public transport. The only problem with FFP2 masks is the cost – around £2-3 each for a disposable mask.
Finally, it is worth taking a look at face coverings treated with antiviral and antibacterial coatings, such as HeiQ Viroblock. Although around £15 each, they are washable 30 times at 40C. According to the Australian ‘Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity’, HeiQ’s Viroblock NPJ03 textile technology is effective against SARS-COV-2 with a 99.99% reduction in terms of the virus which causes COVID-19.
Featured Image: In order to illustrate the effectiveness of different kinds of face coverings, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science conducted a series of tests using a mannequin, affectionately known as ‘Puff’, designed to emulate normal breathing, coughing, and sneezing. When the mannequin was not fitted with a mask, it projected respiratory droplets, the primary means of transmission for COVID-19, much farther than the 2-metre distancing guidelines currently recommended by the States of Guernsey. Moreover, the tracer droplets remained suspended mid-air for up to three minutes in the quiescent environment.
The object of the research was to highlight the rationale behind social-distancing guidelines and recommendations for using face coverings. Without a mask, respiratory droplets travelled up to four metres. With a bandana, the distance reduced to just over a metre. With a folded cotton handkerchief, the distance the droplets travelled dropped to under half a metre. With cone-style masks, droplets travelled around 20 centimetres.
However, with with a stitched quilted cotton mask, they travelled just five centimetres or two inches – QED.