Can wearing face masks stop the virus?

Face masks won’t stop coronavirus from spreading so you still need to follow health officials’ advice for social distancing and washing your hands regularly. What they can do is help reduce the likelihood that you pass it on if you are suffering from the virus – remember that there are also people who don’t show symptoms of COVID-19.

As Professor Chris Whitty, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, puts it, wearing a face covering “is an added precaution that may have some benefit in reducing the likelihood that a person with the infection passes it on.”

Who needs to wear face masks?

The government’s official COVID-19 advice for wearing face masks says: “Face-coverings should not be used by children under the age of two, or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.”

Wearing a face covering could be particularly challenging for asthma sufferers to breathe properly and Asthma UK says don’t wear one if you are finding it hard.

What is the difference between a face mask and a face covering?

All surgical face masks are classified as either Type I, Type IR, Type II, Type IIR, and are medical devices provided by the hospital. Face coverings can be cloth or homemade and should cover the nose and mouth of the wearer.

When do I need to wear my mask?

It’s recommended wearing a mask anytime you’re in a public setting where maintaining social distancing is challenging.

While there’s no hard and fast rule about when and where you need to wear your mask, or don’t need to wear it, the likely places you can always expect social distancing to be challenging include:

  • Grocery stores
  • Retail stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Buses, trains and subways

If you’re going outdoors for a walk or to exercise, and expect there to be plenty of space between you and others, you can consider forgoing the mask — but it’s always a good idea to have it on hand, just in case.

Does wearing a mask mean it’s safe to stand closer than 6 feet to someone else?

A face mask is an added layer of protection that can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in spaces where social distancing is challenging. But, your mask is not a replacement for social distancing. Rather, it’s a supplement to social distancing. When in a public setting, it’s safest to practice both social distancing and wear your cloth face mask.

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