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How to wear your coronavirus face mask

So you have to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus? Wondering how to chose one? Or if it will slip off, or be suffocating?

How to wear your coronavirus face mask
Newly-wed Italians Ester Concilio (L) and Rafaele Carbonelli kiss while wearing face masks following their wedding ceremony at the Briosco's town hall, about 45 km ( 28 miles) north of Milan. AFP

While masks are everyday accessories in parts of Asia, for those not accustomed to wearing them the experience can be unnerving, even daunting.

Here are some tips for the uninitiated:

Which mask?

Unless you are a frontline health worker you do not need a high-spec respirator like the N95 or FFP2, experts say.

Leave those for the professionals. 

When it comes to other types of masks, the advice has shifted with the understanding of the epidemic. 

Initially, health authorities and the World Health Organization said it was useless for the general population to wear masks in public. 

Now it is increasingly recommended as part of the public health toolbox, along with frequent handwashing and physical distancing.    

With medical personal protective equipment off the table, authorities have suggested people buy or make fabric face coverings. 

The WHO has expressed doubts that these will offer full protection for the wearer, but notes that they could stop an unknowingly infected person from passing the virus on to others. 

This matters because a significant minority of people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms at all.  

Those wanting to make their own masks have no shortage of tutorials online to turn to for inspiration. 

The website of the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has instructions for how to make a no-sew mask by cutting up a T-Shirt.

Some countries have published manufacturing standards — even for homemade masks. 

In France, authorities recommend that they should be made from at least two layers of flexible and, importantly, breathable fabric. 

There should not be vertical seams where it fits to the mouth, nose and 
chin to avoid leakage.   

Masks produced for sale by textile manufacturers — following either a “duckbill” or “pleated” pattern — must filter between 70 percent and 90 percent of particles expelled by the wearer that are three microns in diameter. The average human hair is roughly 80 microns thick.

Very young infants should not wear masks because of the risk of suffocation. Regulations as to the exact age threshold depends on the country.

How to fit it

Once you have purchased or made your mask, there are some simple tips for wearing it comfortably and safely.

The main thing to remember is that a face covering does not replace other key virus avoidance measures: soap and social distance.

It may go without saying, but the mask should be worn on your face, not hung around the neck like a scarf, nor on the forehead like a bandana. This risks contamination.

As does sharing the mask with others.

To put one on, first wash your hands.

Then holding the mask by its strings, fit it snugly over your mouth, nose and chin and fasten it in place.

A teacher wearing a protective face mask speaks with pupils after they have returned to their classroom in France. AFP

With surgical type masks, there is sometimes a rigid bar that goes over the bridge of the nose and can be pinched to fit the face. 

It is important to ensure it fits comfortably.

A badly-fitted mask risks slippage and discomfort, tempting you to touch your face.

If you do need to adjust the mask while out, you will need to wash your hands first.

Single-use surgical masks can normally be worn for a maximum of a few hours before they should be replaced, depending on the type. It should be discarded earlier if it becomes wet or damaged.  

In France, the rules state even non-disposable masks should be worn only for around four hours, meaning you would need to pack several if planning to be using them all day.

When taking off the mask, first wash your hands.  

Holding it by the fasteners, remove the mask without touching the potentially contaminated front section. Wash your hands. 

After use 

Single use surgical masks should be discarded after use, preferably in a closed bin.

For fabric models, washing instructions vary by country.

The US CDC says they should be washed regularly — after each time they are worn — using a mild detergent, then “dried completely in a hot dryer”.

In France, the advice is at least 30 minutes on a 60 degrees Celsius machine wash, then drying either in a machine or open air, then ironing.  

Putting the mask in the freezer or microwave to try to kill the virus is not recommended.

Even fabric masks have a shelf life as the material degrades with washing.

At the slightest sign of wear, throw it away.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”