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Mask or no mask? poll shows 22pc of men do not use face coverings

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John Crowley (centre), first in line outside Arnotts department store on Henry Street in Dublin, as it reopens for the first time after lockdown restrictions were eased in Ireland. Photo: PA

John Crowley (centre), first in line outside Arnotts department store on Henry Street in Dublin, as it reopens for the first time after lockdown restrictions were eased in Ireland. Photo: PA

PA

John Crowley (centre), first in line outside Arnotts department store on Henry Street in Dublin, as it reopens for the first time after lockdown restrictions were eased in Ireland. Photo: PA

The majority of the public are not wearing face masks or coverings, according to the latest poll.

Just 28pc of the population are covering up when they leave home and it is as low as 22pc among men.

Yet 84pc told the Department of Health survey they would "definitely" or "probably" wear one.

So why the gap? It may be partly due to the mixed messages, lack of public reminders, comfort, cost, or just confusion about what works.

Q: What is the purpose of a face mask?

A: According to the most up-to-date advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), masks are useful as part of a package of measures to reduce transmission of the coronavirus.

It reduces the chance of the wearer of the mask transmitting coronavirus and, depending on the grade of the covering, offers protection against infection. Ideally, you still need to keep a two-metre distance, wash hands and cover coughs and sneezes.

Q: Do I need to wear them all the time outside?

A: They offer the best advantage in situations where the two-metre physical distancing may be difficult, like public transport, shops or occasions when meeting someone from another household.

Q: Are all masks the same?

A: No, there are different masks with varying levels of protection.

For the general public there are homemade face coverings which can include DIY versions or scarves.

The most commonly seen masks on sale in shops and supermarkets are three-ply masks. Pharmacies are also selling a third type, another grade known as a medical mask.

The advantage of the medical mask is that they are fluid resistant and provide barrier protection against droplets from somebody coughing or sneezing.

Q: Are home face coverings any use?

A: The WHO recommends three layers of fabric. This includes an inner layer of absorbent material like cotton and on the outside something non-absorbent like polyester.

The advice is that any covering, though, is better than none.

Experiments show that although scarves and bandana material are not the most effective, they captured some particles.

Not everyone can afford to buy masks. The advice is to have a tight fitting around the face and have layers. They should cover the nose and mouth. Always wash after use.

Q: What about medical masks?

A: These are more expensive but are favoured by WHO for people with underlying illnesses and those over 60 years of age.

Medical masks - also known as surgical masks - are made from a minimum of three layers of synthetic non-woven materials. They are available in different thicknesses, have various levels of fluid-resistance and two levels of filtration.

These medical masks reduce the respiratory droplets from the wearer to others and to the environment.

However, they can also prevent transmission of the virus from others to the wearer. The advice is to wear the mask tightly to the face.

Q: What should I know about putting on and taking off a mask?

A: Before you put on a mask clean your hands. So if you are out and about and entering a shop or bus, have your own small tube of hand sanitiser with you to use. Put the mask on your face covering your nose, mouth and chin.

Keep your hands away from the mask and if you do touch it, clean your hands.

Before you take off the mask, clean your hands. Remove the straps from behind your ears. Lean forward and pull the mask away from your face.

A medical mask is for single use only and discard it in a bin. Clean your hands after touching the mask. The ideal situation would be for the State to deliver packs of masks to households.