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Do I have to wear a face mask in public?

Many people are wearing face masks now due to COVID-19, here is some advice on how and where you should use them


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in news


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Face masks are being used at the moment to help stop the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). They can help stop someone who doesn’t know they have the virus spreading it to other people. The government has put together some guidelines as to when you should use face masks and how they should be worn.

When should I wear a face mask?

It is suggested that you wear a face mask when you are:

  • In places where it is difficult for you to practice social distancing by staying 2 metres away from other people, such as busy shops or when taking public transport
  • In an indoor space with other people that you do not live with, for example, if you work in a shop or hardware store

If you have trouble breathing, or you are unable to remove the mask by yourself, it’s better not to wear one. The same applies for anyone under the age of 13, or people with special needs who feel upset or uncomfortable when wearing a mask.

How much protection does a face mask offer?

Face masks may help to reduce the spread of infection by reducing the spread of droplets that could be carrying the virus. By wearing a face mask, you are less likely to pass the virus on to someone else if you have been infected but have not started showing symptoms.

However, face masks do not work on their own, and it is only effective if you follow the other guidelines that the Government has issued during this pandemic, including

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Following social distancing guidelines by staying at least 2 metres apart from others
  • Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze

Do I have to wear a face mask on public transport?

The Government has now made the use of face masks on public transport mandatory, this means that you have to do so in order to use the transport. The use of masks has become mandatory as the rate of people using public transport increases as part of phase three of lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Regulations are currently being put in place by the Government to enforce the use of face masks by passengers on public transport. 

What kind of facemask should I wear?

It is really important that frontline staff, including medical workers, do not run out of masks. That’s why the public have been asked to use cloth face coverings, which covers your nose and mouth, instead of medical masks.

How to make a face mask

You can make your own face covering at home from t-shirts, scarves or towels. Medical face masks should only be worn by healthcare workers as we need to make sure there are as many as possible available for them to use.

How to use a face mask correctly

Here are some important points on safely wearing a face mask.

Things to do when putting on a face mask:

  • Wash your hands properly before putting the mask on
  • Practice using it so you get used to taking it on and off
  • Make sure the material you use is comfortable to wear
  • Cover your nose and mouth and make sure there are no gaps
  • Carry unused face coverings in a clean waterproof bag that you can close with a seal, for example, a ziplock bag
  • Carry a second similar type bag to put used face coverings in

Things to avoid:

  • Do not touch a face covering while wearing it - if you do, clean your hands properly.
  • Do not use a wet or stained face covering.
  • Do not share face coverings with friends or family.
  • Do not lower your face coverings to speak, eat, smoke or vape - if you need to uncover your nose or mouth take the face covering off and put it in the bag for used face coverings
  • Do not get rid of face coverings in public places.

How do I take off my face mask?

  • Take it off from your ears or the back of your head if it is tied - do not touch the front of the mask
  • Put in a sealable clean waterproof bag or wash immediately - put disposable masks in a bin straight away
  • Clean your hands properly

Should I wear disposable gloves?

It might be tempting to wear disposable gloves when you’re outside or doing the shopping, but they do not offer much protection. This is because the virus can get on the gloves in the same way it gets on your hands, making it unsafe when you take them off.

Disposable gloves are worn in medical settings by healthcare workers. They do not work as well in our daily lives. Wearing disposable gloves can make you feel you are protected even when they are not being used safely.

The most effective way to protect yourself is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially when you come in from outside or from the shops.

Need more information?

Would you like more information? Maybe you would like to talk through your own situation? Get in touch through our online chat system for 16 to 25 year olds - Monday to Friday from 4pm to 8pm.

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Published May 21st2020
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.
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