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Cloth face masks now 'strongly advised'

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ISLANDERS are now being 'strongly advised' to wear cloth face masks when out in public after the official advice on their use to protect against the spread of coronavirus changed.

People in Manchester wearing face masks

And as a result, shops that sell fabric and sewing supplies are being allowed to reopen to allow Islanders wanting to make their own masks access to materials to do so.

Jersey's medical officer of health, Dr Ivan Muscat, said that although there is limited direct data on the use of cloth masks for Covid-19, there is 'good supportive evidence from other infections and good theoretical reasons to believe they will be helpful'.

He added it is therefore reasonable to conclude that such masks are an additional way to help reduce the transmission of the virus.

In recent days both the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have updated their advice to back the use of cloth masks. Countries such as the Czech Republic, Austria and some parts of Germany have already recommended their use.

Dr Muscat said: 'Using cloth masks to cover your nose and mouth will reduce the transmission of large respiratory droplets from the person wearing the mask to others. To a lesser extent, the masks may also protect the wearer from others.

'It is now strongly recommended that non-medical face coverings are worn in public places while Islanders are observing stay at home guidance, particularly when shopping for essentials, and by essential workers where appropriate.

'Cloth masks may also act as a reminder that we live in different times and should be staying at home as much as possible. Such masks are not a substitute for strict social distancing, stay at home guidance or good hand and respiratory hygiene.

'Using a cloth mask is an additional measure and is not suitable in a clinical setting, where medical grade personal protective equipment is required.'

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Having a face mask does not mean those with the virus, who should be in household isolation, can leave home safely without transmitting the virus to others, he added.

Employers and the self employed are now being urged to think about how to reflect the updated advice in their workplaces.

The government now advises:

Cloth face masks, which can be homemade or bought from sellers locally or online, should:

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• be used in public places

• be changed if soiled, wet or uncomfortable. Place used cloth masks in a plastic bag and take home for washing (ideally in a machine and tumble-dried, otherwise with detergent and hot water). Essential workers may need several masks a day to ensure good hygiene and comfort.

People wearing a mask should:

• wash hands after removing it

• remember that repeated washing may eventually degrade the material, reducing its effectiveness in stopping large respiratory particles. Sensible replacement of used masks is appropriate.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
author

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