The latest advice on face masks and Covid-19.
Face masks are back in the spotlight after the Ministry of Health updated its advice and recommended adding masks to your emergency supplies.
It’s recommending non-medical grade face masks – either disposable options or reusable cloth masks – when there’s evidence of community transmission of Covid-19.
The ministry previously advised masks weren’t necessary, unless you were sick or had a job requiring close contact with people who may have Covid-19.
In its updated advice, the ministry says face masks will be useful if there’s known community transmission of Covid-19 and people are in situations where they’re in close proximity, such as on public transport or in shops.
The ministry’s advice follows a recent update from the World Health Organization (WHO).
In its June 2020 guidance, WHO stated there’s not yet high quality or direct scientific evidence supporting the use of masks by healthy people. However, available studies and growing observational evidence from several countries where masks are used have provided a basis for updating its advice.
It’s now recommending governments encourage people to wear a mask if there’s widespread community transmission and physical distancing of at least a metre isn’t possible.
At both alert levels 2 and 3, you’re required to wear a mask on buses, trains, ferries and on all flights. This requirement applies from 11.59pm, Sunday, 30 August 2020.
In other situations, you can opt to wear a mask at level 2 when physical distancing isn’t possible. At level 3, it’s highly recommended you wear a mask in closed spaces where physical distancing isn’t possible and contact with other people outside your bubble may occur.
Not many people will need to wear face masks at level 4 because we’ll be in lockdown and staying home most of the time.
A face mask helps stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, coughs or sneezes. But it won’t make you bullet-proof – don’t believe any trader making overblown health claims for its masks.
Health authorities stress that masks are just one way to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Washing your hands is as important as ever. Other public health measures – physical distancing and staying home when you’re sick – are also critical in stopping the spread of the virus in the event of another outbreak.
A mask with three layers of fabric is considered the best option. Based on available research, WHO’s advice is a mask with:
an inner layer of absorbent material, such as cotton
a middle layer of non-woven material, such as polypropylene
an outer layer of non-absorbent material, such as polyester or polyester blend.
For advice on making your own mask, Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services has put this guide together, or watch the video below from the World Health Organisation (WHO).