The state’s National Public Health Emergency Team has sent new advice to the government on face masks and which varieties better protect people against COVID-19.
The recommendations have not extended to other countries where people are advised to wear high-grade respiratory masks in public places.
What kind of masks are people wearing?
Face masks are broadly divided into three groups: the cloth face masks that most people wear in shops and public transport; Slightly better medical grade masks that are mostly blue in color, and even more protective high grade respirator masks that can look like a duck’s bill.
Which are the best masks?
The FFP3 Respirator Face Mask and the slightly lower grade FFP2 (FFP stands for Filter Face Piece, by the way) provide the highest level of protection.
They reduce exposure to airborne particles.
These masks should be worn tightly to the face and reduce the wearer’s exposure to small particulate aerosols, filtering at least 95 percent of these airborne particles. The US equivalents of the FF2 and FFP3 masks are the N95 and N99, respectively.
Why are medical grade masks not as effective?
Medical masks do not protect against small airborne particles. They are often loose fitting, allowing leakage around the edges when the user inhales.
For this reason the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not consider medical masks to be respiratory protection.
How effective are basic cloth masks?
Fabric masks or face coverings such as the homemade varieties will not protect you, but may protect others if you are infected. They are not classified as official personal protective equipment.
What has Naphet told the government?
For the most part the advice is nuanced and discretionary. It states that all types of masks, including cloth masks, can reduce community transmission of COVID-19 if made properly, fitted well and worn appropriately, but medical and respiratory masks are more provide security.
So is Nephet telling us that we should wear high quality masks?
Not necessary. It has stopped saying that people should wear them, leaving them up to the individual to decide.
It has been advised that if people want to wear them, they should, but only if the mask they choose fits well and is worn properly. For the medically vulnerable and older people (age 60 and over), Nphet has gone a little further.
These people are already advised to wear medical masks in crowded outdoor spaces or confined indoor spaces, but the public health team now says these people may prefer to wear respiratory masks because they protect against virus particles. Can provide a high level of security. that can help those at higher risk.
Are high grade masks recommended for other groups?
And it is. Nphet has advised that ideally a respirator or medical mask should be worn instead of a cloth mask if it is contagious, has a confirmed case of Covid-19, has symptoms, is a household contact with a case or who is in health care. being in the setting of or a vulnerable person.
What other advice has Nephet given?
It has said that HSEs should develop a clear message on different types of masks.
What is the reason for this new advice?
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly asked Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan over Christmas to revisit official advice on face masks and whether to ask the public to wear something more protective than cloth masks in light of the spread of the Omicron variant should go. ,
What have other countries done?
In Germany, FFP2 respirators are mandatory on public transport and in shops, while in Austria they are mandatory in workplaces. In Italy, people were ordered to wear them on public transport and in public places such as theatres, cinemas and sporting events just before Christmas.
Why didn’t Nephet go further?
It is unclear, but the advice to the minister emphasizes that respirators and medical-grade masks should be prioritized for healthcare workers and those living in health care settings, so the guarantees around supplies are theirs for wider public use. Could be a factor in not recommending.
What do experts say?
Aoife McLissaght, professor of genetics at Trinity College Dublin, said that giving a clear message on the differences in the different types of face masks and their effectiveness is a good start.
“Even if people were given that information and if that information became really clear, that would be a huge step forward,” she said.
He believes that FFP2 masks should be worn in confined indoor spaces such as public transport.
“FFP2 has much better filtering quality and they tend to be a better size and fit people better on average,” she said.
“On public transport, you are in an enclosed space and you have a little less choice about who you are sharing the air with.
“If I were a bus driver, I would want all passengers to wear a mask of that quality. I’ll feel a lot more comfortable in my workplace.”