COVID-19 Outbreak: Cloth Face Coverings


Cloth face coverings or masks are not manufactured to a recognized standard and they are not same as the surgical masks or respirators. According to a research conducted in Nepal last year, the majority of locally available cloth face masks (having pore size 80 – 500 microns) may not be effective to avoid small particles (less than 10 microns). The study also revealed that repeated washing and drying of cloth mask deteriorates its efficiency. Nonetheless, people who want to wear a face covering in public, workplaces and offices should be well encouraged to do so for the benefit of everybody.

Several studies now indicate that wearing a mask, even a cloth face covering in the time of wide community spreads when physical distancing is tough to maintain, can create a physical barrier to the coronavirus.

A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces as well as in crowded places where social distancing isn’t possible. While covering your mouth and nose, make sure you can talk with your face covering on and that it doesn’t irritate you. Otherwise you may be tempted to pull it out of place or touch your face and limit its effectiveness altogether.

World Health Organization supports the use of cloth masks or face coverings to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, the benefit of using a cloth mask is limited and cannot be a substitute for other ways of managing risks in your homes and offices such as social distancing, reducing the number of people in the work area, minimizing time spent in contact, job rotations, increasing hand hygiene, and surface disinfection, etc.

Johns Hopkins Medicine also claims that wearing cloth masks or face coverings in public, when physical distancing can’t be maintained effectively, does offer protection against the spread of COVID-19. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering may not necessarily protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected and have not developed symptoms yet. On the other hand if you are healthy, a cloth face covering may as well protect you from larger infectious droplets from people around you.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reckons that a cloth covering may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others. That means “YOUR cloth face covering may protect THEM and THEIR cloth face covering may protect YOU”.

Let’s not forget that wearing a cloth face covering will especially help protect people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come in close contact with other people (in shops, crowds, restaurants, etc.).

Cloth face coverings will only prove to be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely understood, accepted and practiced by all people in communities.

A longer version of this article appears in

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COVID-19 Outbreak: Cloth Face Coverings

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