NEW rules about the use of face masks have come into effect as the UK continues to battle coronavirus.
As of Friday, July 24, it is now compulsory to cover your mouth and nose while shopping in stores, as well as other locations such as stations and on public transport.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
Brits now have to wear face masks when entering shops – or face being fined.
And while there are many good sources to bulk buy masks for a reasonable price, you can never beat a cost-cutting DIY expedition.
How to make a homemade face mask
Health officials have strongly urged the public not to buy up surgical masks, which are vital for frontline health workers to protect themselves while treating patients.
Instead, Brits have been advised to try making their own at home version.
Homemade masks won’t offer the same protection as medical-grade masks, but experts say they still work to some level.
One of the simplest ways to make one at home is to use paper you already have at home – just take two layers of kitchen roll and one tissue cut in half.
You then cover each end with masking tape, punch two holes in and thread elastic or a hair tie through to fit around your ears.
If you want to stiffen it so that it is more secure you can add some wire into the ends before taping them up.
Another method involves using a T-shirt without the need for any sewing or stitching.
A YouTube tutorial by Runa Ray explains that for the t-shirt method, you need to cut out a 16in by 4in rectangle from the material.
Then fold it in half and measure 4in on either side before making an equal number of cuts along the edges with scissors.
Then turn the fabric inside out and knot each of the tails, but leave the four outer edges.
Cut two more strips of material and tie them to the ends – these are the straps that will go around your ears.
Some people have also used a vacuum cleaner bag to create a face mask, which is a bit more complicated – and only works if you have a spare, clean bag to hand.
The Government has also released instructions on how to make a face mask from a T-shirt.
What else can be used as a face covering?
You don’t have to make your own homemade face mask to keep yourself safe.
A face covering can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head.
It should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably.
How to wear a face mask safely
Before putting your face mask on, wash your hands or use hand sanitiser and repeat after taking it off.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.
Do not touch the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose.
Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched.
You should wash a face covering regularly – it can go in with other laundry, using your normal detergent.
Who should wear a mask?
The Government says that face coverings should not be used by children under the age of three or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly.
For example, primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.
Children should also only wear a face mask under the supervision of an adult.
People with disabilites, breathing difficulties and children are exempt from wearing face masks in stores and on public transport.
These people have been asked to download an exemption card from the TfL website so that they can show staff when asked about wearing a face covering.
Do masks work?
Experts are still pretty divided on their effectiveness outside of a medical setting.
Wearing a mask can act as a physical barrier to prevent infecting others if you are sick by blocking the droplets that come out when you cough or sneeze.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies that is advising the government said the evidence that masks slow the spread is “marginal but positive”.
But some experts argue that people can accidentally infect themselves when taking a mask off or they can lead to complacency with other measures such as hand-washing.
As soon as you touch the mask having put it on it becomes redundant, some say.
New evidence from Hong Kong about face masks has been shared confidentially with the World Health Organisation.
The data hasn’t been made public yet but it reportedly suggests that the protective gear was effective in slowing the spread in Asian countries.
Professor Susan Michie, of University College London, said there is “not good evidence” to suggest wearing masks will cut transmissions.
She said: “They do not protect against the virus getting into the eyes – only close fitting goggles do this.
“People may not fit the masks properly or take them on and off. Touching face masks and not taking them off in the correct way may mean people contaminate their hands and spread the virus.
“People may have a false sense of reassurance and thus pay less attention to other behaviours key to reducing transmission such as social distancing and hand-washing.”
Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, reviewed 31 studies which looked at the efficacy of face masks in preventing respiratory illness.
He said the research was poor, adding that it was “as easy to make an argument for opposing the widespread use of masks as it would be to make an argument promoting their use”.
Most experts are in agreement that for masks to work as they are intended, they must be used correctly.
Dr Jenna Macciochi, a lecturer in immunology at the University of Sussex, told the Mail: “To be effective, a mask has to be fitted correctly, worn correctly and disposed of correctly — which is not something the general public has been trained in.”
She added that not wearing one correctly is potentially more hazardous than not using one at all, as you may infect yourself with the particles the mask is protecting you against when you take it off.
The WHO says surgical masks can only help when used with other preventative measures such as frequent hand-washing.
What is the guidance on masks in the UK?
Face masks were made mandatory for people to wear on public transport from June 15 and people are now required to wear masks in shops, which came into force from July 24.
Anyone spotted flouting the new rules could be hit with a £100 fine.
Shopkeepers have been asked to implement the new rules in their stores.
Passengers on public transport have already been told to wear masks when travelling, with commuters refused travel if they aren’t wearing one
Commuters should expect to see signs at stations and transport hubs outlining the new rules.
Speaking on May 5, the UK Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said wearing face masks had a “marginal but positive” impact on the spread of infection.
“Where masks may have a role is where distancing isn’t possible, where there might be undue crowding,” he added.
But Sir Patrick says wearing a mask should not replace social distancing and hand washing – which are both vital.
CORONAVIRUS CRISIS – STAY IN THE KNOW
Don’t miss the latest news and figures – and essential advice for you and your family.