New York residents have been told to wear face masks in public - but what is the current advice in the UK?

This is what you need to know about wearing face masks during the outbreak (Photo: Shutterstock)
This is what you need to know about wearing face masks during the outbreak (Photo: Shutterstock)

As the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, various countries and cities are trying new tactics in order to try and tackle the spread of the virus.

New York is the latest to urge its residents to make wearing face masks the new normal - but what is the advice for those living in the UK?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This is everything you need to know.

Why are New Yorkers being asked to wear face masks?

On Thursday (2 April), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all residents should be wearing homemade face masks when they go out in public.

During an afternoon press conference, the Mayor stated that people should not try to seek out professional grade medical masks, as this would contribute to the shortage being faced by medical professionals, but should instead fashion their own masks to cover their noses and mouths.

“I’m talking about face coverings to distinguish, things you can create yourself - like I said, scarfs, bandanas,” the Mayor said.

De Blasio added, “It doesn’t have to be fancy to work. It can be real homegrown.”

Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said, “These face coverings are intended to do two things. One, is for individuals who may be at the very, very beginning of an illness and don't yet know it and so they’re pre-symptomatic; to ensure that they don’t transmit infection to other people when they have to go out for essential activities.

“The other thing that these face coverings do is again - if someone has to go outside - I want them to be a reminder for anyone that they may come in contact with to keep the distance of six feet.”

Commissioner Barbot recommended using “cloth face coverings”, like bandanas or scarves, as long as they cover the nose and mouth.

Barbot added, “We would recommend that you have more than one face covering so that you can alternate them.”

What’s the face mask advice in the UK?

The current advice in the UK is that people do not need to be wearing face masks, unless they are sick or caring for someone with Covid-19.

However, officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are potentially going to review their current stance on if the public should be wearing face masks.

This comes after a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggested that the virus travelling through coughs and sneezes could actually travel much further than originally thought.

Infectious disease specialist Professor David Heymann, who is chairing the panel for WHO, also said that evidence from Hong Kong might indicate that masks are more useful than previously thought.

“There is right now a debate about the usefulness of masks because Hong Long has provided some evidence that masks may be useful in protecting individuals from infection. It’s not clear yet whether or not that is true,” Prof Heymann said at the Chatham House briefing.

How do I make my own face mask?

With face masks in such short supply, people are being told not to purchase face masks as this could contribute to the shortage affecting medical centres and the professionals that need them.

You can fashion your own face masks using the likes of scarves, t-shirts or even pillowcases.

Have other countries introduced face masks?

The usage of face masks in other countries is starting to become apparent, with the likes of Austria making mask-wearing in supermarkets compulsory.

In the USA, Los Angeles is also encouraging its residents to also make mask wearing more commonplace.

The Czech Republic and its neighbour, Slovakia, have also made mask-wearing mandatory for its citizens.

Mask-wearing across Asia has also been a long adopted tactic.

#HealthHeroes

Show your support for the incredible work being done by those working on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis. Join our Facebook group and follow the dedicated Instagram page to read stories of everyday heroism and share your own messages.

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this website, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Thank you, and stay safe.