What counts as a face covering and what makes the best face mask?

WEARING a protective face covering will be made mandatory on public transport in England, but not till mid-June.

The British Medical Association (BMA) advocated the donning of masks several weeks ago in areas where people cannot socially distance.

What are the rules on wearing face coverings on public transport?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Thursday, May 4, that wearing a face covering will be mandatory on public transport in England from June 15.

The government says this order "coincides with the next stage of carefully easing restrictions".

You "must wear a face covering on journeys to help reduce the risk of transmission when social distancing is not always possible" when travelling by:

  • Bus
  • Coach
  • Train
  • Tram
  • Ferry
  • Aircraft

But, the guidance remains to work from home if you can and avoid public transport where possible.

British Transport Police will have powers allowing them to issue on-the-spot fines to rule breakers.

However, a YouGov poll in mid-April found that Brits were split on whether the government should advise healthy people to wear masks.

Just 33 per cent said healthy people should wear facial coverings, while 31 per cent disagreed, saying they should not.

The mandatory order comes as critics have hit out at the government for being "too slow to act" in introducing the measures.

In London there's been a 20 per cent increase in the use of the Tube over the past week prompting fears that virus cases will rise again.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), said it had "been campaigning for compulsory wearing of masks on public transport and this is long overdue.

"We fear this announcement is being driven not by safety concerns but by the premature easing of the lockdown which is swelling passenger numbers and making social distancing on transport increasingly impossible."

But, Prof Anthony Costello, ex-director at the World Health Organisation, said the evidence that wearing masks prevented transmission of coronavirus was "not very strong".

However he admitted that he would choose to wear one when using public transport.

"If I'm travelling on a bus or a tube, I'd want to have a face covering," he told the BBC.

Compulsory face-covering measures should be introduced to "all areas" where social distancing is not possible, the BMA has said.

Council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the risk of contracting the killer bug would be "much less" if the public wears face coverings straight away instead of waiting for the mid-June start date.

He said: "The BMA recently advocated the wearing of face coverings by the public several weeks ago in areas where they cannot socially distance and believes it is right that people should be required to wear face coverings on public transport.

"Given there remains a considerable risk of infection, with thousands of new cases every day, wearing masks can reduce the spread of the virus.

"Not only will this afford greater protection to the public, it will protect the lives of the staff working on public transport who, as evidence suggests, are at greater risk of infection."

What counts as a covering?

Face coverings are not the same as face masks.

They can be as simple as a scarf or a bandana that ties behind the head to give a snug fit.

The government insists it doesn't want everyone to wear medical-grade PPE face masks, as there's still a shortage of these, and "to ensure these remain available for frontline health staff".

Instead, the government has set out advice for people on how to make their own face coverings easily at home, using scarves or transforming other textile items, such as old T-shirts.

Can I make my own face mask or covering?

You can create your own comfortable face covering at home.

These face coverings should cover the mouth and nose while allowing the wearer to breathe comfortably.

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.

Who doesn't need to cover their face on public transport?

Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 3 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly.

For example, primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

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