ABOUT USING MASKS
The term ‘protective mask’ is usually used to refer to medical masks as well as other respiratory tract protective equipment, such as home-made masks.
A mask will prevent the spread of droplets which are released from the respiratory tracts when coughing or sneezing. A mask reduces the possibility of the virus being transmitted from someone who is coughing to a healthy person who is nearby, via droplets which could infect that healthy person and cause them to fall ill.
Masks can be divided in three types:
- Non-medical protective masks are classed as protective masks which are used in the community, especially home-made masks or those that are sold over the counter. Such masks are usually made of various textile materials (such as cloth) or other materials.
- Medical protective masks are those which are primarily designed to protect patients during medical procedures. These masks are compliant with the requirements which are specified in the EN 14683:2014 European standard.
- Filtering half masks protect users from particles which can be found in the external environment. Filtering half masks are divided into several classes based on their filtering efficiency levels. Class FFP2 means that the mask filters a total of 95% of particles that are of a diameter of 0.3µm, that is at least 0.0003mm in size. A Class FFP3 mask filters at least 99% of particles that are found in the air. Such masks may be worn for up to eight hours.
A reusable fabric mask may be used instead of a medical mask if the individual is healthy, is not included in a risk group, and is not caring for or treating a COVID-19 patient. It is not feasible to recommend home-made masks for those who have tested positive for COVID-19, or anyone who is treating or caring for such individuals, or individuals who are included in risk groups.
When do you need to wear a mask?
Obligation to wear a mask or to cover one’s nose and mouth in public indoor spaces.
A public indoor space is a space intended for public use that can be entered by anyone, regardless of the pre-registration requirement, for example. It is a place with many people who do not come into contact with each other on a daily basis. A public transport vehicle is also considered a public indoor space.
You must wear a mask:
- On public transport
- On the sales premises and any publicly-used premises of commercial establishments
- At conferences
- At concerts
- In theatres
- In cinemas etc
If you do not have a mask, cover your nose and mouth by other means, such as with a scarf.
What should you keep in mind in
the case of a non-medical mask?
Non-medical masks must be compliant with the CWA 17553:2020 or 237 CWA 17553:2020 standards. Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that a home-made mask should be able to endure five washing cycles at a temperature of at least 60°C. Non-medical masks may also not be equipped with inlet and/or outlet valves.
A home-made mask must remain securely in place on the user’s nose, cheeks, and chin even if the user’s skin is dry or moist, or if the user moves their head. The mask ensures maximum efficiency if it is worn directly over bare skin. Beards may reduce the filtration efficiency of masks.
In the case of a home-made mask, the material it is made of is especially important. Home-made masks must be made of a tightly woven material. Also, masks which consist of several layers may be more efficient in catching tiny particles.
According to the WHO, home-made masks should consist of three layers:
- The inner layer should be made of a breathable material, such as cotton.
- The middle layer should be made of a non-woven material, such as polypropylene.
- The outer layer should be made of a denser fabric, such as polyester or a polyester mix.
Wearing a mask is not compulsory for individuals who have a valid medical reason not to do so, as well as anyone who needs to communicate with individuals who have hearing disabilities (as such individuals need to be able to read the lips of their conversation partners), and children under the age of twelve. Not wearing a mask may also be justified in other situations (such as if the individual concerned is travelling on an otherwise empty public transport vehicle or carriage, for example).
Before meeting up with an individual who is included in a risk group, make sure that you are not infectious and ensure the safety of your visit: wear a mask, observe the requirements for social distancing, and clean your hands and surfaces.
If you are living with an individual who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, do not forget to apply the require safety measures, including wearing a mask, social distancing if possible, avoiding contact with this individual, and regularly cleaning your hands and surfaces.
Properly putting on and removing a mask?
In order to make wearing masks as efficient as possible, it is important to remember how to use them properly.
Putting on a mask:
- Wash your hands or, if this is not possible, disinfect them with an antiseptic before touching your mask.
- Make sure that your mask is clean and is not broken or torn.
- Cover your nose and mouth with the mask and make sure that the mask fits as tightly as possible against your face.
During the wearing of a mask:
- Do not use a broken, torn, or dirty mask.
- Make sure that the mask covers your nose and mouth properly, and that you do not wear the mask under your nose.
- Avoid touching the mask while wearing it, as this increases the risk of contaminating the mask and/or yourself and increases your risk of falling ill.
- Remove the mask if it gets dirty or wet.
- Do not share your personal, used mask with anyone else.
Removing a mask:
- Before removing a mask, wash your hands or disinfect them if you cannot wash them.
- Grasp the mask by the straps, but avoid touching the mask material itself.
- Disposable medical masks should be placed in a separate plastic bag and disposed of in a safe manner after use.
- Reusable masks should be placed in a sealable plastic bag after use.
- Reusable masks should be washed with a detergent at a temperature of at least 60°C or as instructed on the packaging and as soon as possible after each use.
- After removing your mask, wash your hands or disinfect them if you cannot wash them.
Always keep in mind the fact that wearing a mask is merely an additional protective measure. You should not forget proper hand hygiene, social distancing, staying at home if you have fallen ill, and ensuring that you do not touch your face, eyes, or mouth.
Proper disposal of masks?
- In public places (such as when you have visited a grocery shop, for example), we advise you to place any used medical masks, gloves, tissues, etc, which may be contagious into a separate plastic bag and seal the bag in order to avoid putting others at risk. Some shops have special waste receptacles for such waste. If there is no special waste receptacle then dispose of your used personal protective equipment in a sealed plastic bag alongside your normal domestic waste.
- If you wish to throw away a reusable mask immediately after using it, place it in a plastic bag, seal the bag securely, and dispose of it with normal mixed domestic waste.
- If you would like to dispose of a reusable mask after the state of emergency has concluded, ie. when the risk of infection is no longer present, dispose of it alongside normal textile waste.
Never throw your used personal protective equipment into a waste bin in a manner which will make it easily accessible by individuals who may searching through waste bins and may thereby come into contact with the virus. Used personal protective equipment must also never be thrown onto the ground around the shop you have just visited or dropped anywhere in the countryside or on open ground.
More information about the proper disposal of masks is available via the website of the Ministry of the Environment »