Several countries across Europe have made face masks mandatory, either at all times when in public or at critical places like schools, stores, and so on. At present, the UK government has not imposed any such rules. However, the administration has announced they will be making a change in policy soon.
Wearing face masks
All German states have announced rules on wearing face masks in public, with some being very strict. “The state of Berlin is the most lenient, it has no fines and will even allow people to board buses and subways without masks. Bavaria, meanwhile, the hardest region hit by the pandemic, is the strictest with fines of €150 [US$164] and even up to €5,000 [US$5,460] for store owners who don’t ensure that their staff are wearing masks,” according to CNN.
In France, the government has made face masks compulsory when riding public transportation. At schools, children aged between 11 and 15 will be made to wear face masks. Shop owners will have the right to ask visitors to wear masks, with shoppers maintaining a distance of at least 3 feet from one another. The government of Italy is also mandating face masks in stores and on public transportation and has advised citizens to combine them with other measures like regular hand washing. The European Parliament will make members and their staff undergo temperature checks prior to entering buildings. They will also be required to wear masks.
When it comes to the UK, the government has not issued a guideline on face masks. This has made some people unhappy since they fear that this is a serious security risk. The Scottish government is currently advising people to wear masks, which is contradictory to the UK administration’s stand on the issue. However, Scotland has not made masks a compulsory thing.
The reluctance of the UK government to mandate masks is said to stem from the fact that face masks cannot stop the spread of the coronavirus completely. However, the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor Martin Marshall, points out that even though this may be true, masks are incredibly useful to limit transmission when people are coughing or sneezing. As such, to not mandate masks because they do not guarantee 100 percent protection seems like a policy flaw.
The government seems to have realized the mistake as Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated that masks would be made compulsory post lockdown. In the UK, COVID-19 cases have averaged about 4,000 per day between April 9 and 29. In total, over 177,000 people have been infected and more than 27,500 have died from the viral infection.
In the U.S., the CDC recommends that citizens wear cloth masks, reserving N95 respirators and surgical masks for medical personnel. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, a non-medical mask has a filter efficiency between 2 and 38 percent. However, this can be improved by carefully selecting the fabric of the mask. A team of scientists recently researched the type of fabric that would be ideal for face masks. They conducted the test on fabrics like cotton, flannel, natural and synthetic silk, polyester, and chiffon.
The scientists tested the filtration effectiveness of the fabrics by blowing aerosol containing particles ranging between 10 nanometers and 6 micrometers in size. If only a single fabric is used, high thread cotton performed the best with filtration effectiveness of about 80 percent. However, the best results were obtained by layering multiple fabrics. A single layer of cotton and two layers of silk on top were found to have filtration effectiveness of 90 percent. Using chiffon or flannel instead of silk also produced similar results.