Photo: Adam Hypki
'Once 80% of the population wears a mask, the spread of a virus during a pandemic can be stopped almost immediately.'
There is evidence that masks can significantly reduce the amount of virus spread by people who have Covid-19 but may not realise it. To a lesser degree, they also provide protection against catching it. It’s a pro-social action to wear a mask: My mask protects you; your mask protects me.
The campaign for #Masks4All is gaining momentum. In the Czech Republic, it started as a grassroots campaign and then passed into law. Within three days, almost 100% of citizens were wearing homemade masks.
Professor Trish Greenhalgh spoke on the World At One on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 16 April, pointing out that masks can be made of almost any available fabric, and that even if homemade masks are not 100% effective, if a high percentage of the population are wearing masks, there will be a huge drop in transmission rates.
Wearing cotton masks for essential trips to shops or on public transport is a simple, effective action that will protect all of us, and above all key workers like bus drivers and shop assistants. Homemade masks do not replace existing essential measures - hand-washing, keeping a safe distance, staying in - but they are another tool to fight the virus.
If you can sew, especially if you have access to a sewing machine, the 'Clover' pattern is simple and effective, with pleats, a close fit over the nose, and the option to put in a paper filter. See the link on www.MakeMasks.org
One possible argument against mass mask-wearing would be that it might give a false sense of security, leading to people failing to respect safe distancing, for example. It is therefore essential to use cotton masks properly, and to keep going with all other protective health measures like hand-washing and staying in. The other argument against 'masks for all' is that this might reduce the supply of medical masks. But the Masks4All campaign is for people to wear homemade masks.
If you are able to make extra masks to give to other people, consider printing out an information sheet like the following to give them. These are instructions relating to the Clover mask.
INFORMATION ABOUT COTTON FACE MASKS
These masks do not replace proper PPE for anyone in contact with people who are ill, but they are an extra tool in cutting overall infection rates in the general population.
All the other measures need to be used too – hand-washing, keeping a safe distance, staying in as much as possible.
There is evidence that masks significantly reduce the amount of virus spread by people who have Covid-19 but may not realise it. To a lesser degree, they also provide protection against catching it. It’s a pro-social action to wear a mask: My mask protects you; your mask protects me.
How to use
To have the best chance of working, the masks need to be used carefully.
1) Put the mask on before you leave the house.
2) Extend the loop at the bottom so it goes over the back of your head, then put the mask in place over mouth and nose. Pull the cord at the top edges of the mask to shorten the loop, then tie it behind your head. Bend the nose wire to fit. Make sure the mask fits snugly against your face and feels comfortable as possible so you won’t be tempted to adjust while out.
3) When you get home, wash your hands as usual. Then untie the mask carefully at the back, and without touching the front of the mask, drop it straight into the washing machine or basin for washing. Wash your hands again.
4) Use the mask only once before washing. They are 100% cotton and can be washed in a normal machine wash with detergent and other clothes, or handwashed. It is the soap/detergent that does the work in breaking down any virus particles, so you don’t have to boil wash. Take out the nose wire before machine washing. A hot steam iron will help get the pleats back into shape and also is an extra level of disinfection.
* You can tuck in an extra filter – a section of paper towel, coffee filter, clean vacuum bag or j-cloth. Experiment with this beforehand and make sure you can still breathe comfortably through the mask. If you do add a paper filter, remember to take it out and throw it away before you wash the mask!
* This mask is made from a pattern called Clover, available from www.MakeMasks.org
* More on the #Masks4All campaign https://masks4all.co