With our Ministry of Health updating its advice on the use of masks, we thought it would be a worth answering some of the most common questions about mask use. We know that masks are an effective part of any elimination strategy, so we’ve prepared some tips for you.
How easy is it to get masks?
The short answer is, all retail stores in New Zealand have enough masks to go around. But don’t wait until you need one to buy them – and do shop around as prices vary. Make sure you buy enough for everyone in your household, and keep spares in your bag and car.
What types of masks are there?
You’ll see lots of types of masks around – but the truth is you don’t need to get the super high end medical-grade masks unless you’re particularly vulnerable. For most people, reusable or single-use masks do the same job, and even wrapping a scarf around your nose and mouth a few times can be effective if you really need to cover up.
Can I make my own mask?
Yes! There are some great videos on YouTube about how to make simple and effective masks.
Do I need to wear a mask?
At alert level 2 masks are now required on public transport and as the COVID-19 situation changes, there’s a chance that we’ll have to wear masks in other situations. Masks are also useful when COVID-19 is present in the community and people are in close contact with each other, like at work or in social situations. Here’s a quick guide to mask use at each level from the Ministry of Health.
Alert Level 1
You won’t need to wear masks as there’s no evidence of community transmission.
Alert Level 2
The risk of COVID-19 being present in the community is higher. So, wearing a face covering is more important. You must wear a face covering on public transport and aircraft at Alert level 2.
Alert Level 3
Similar to Alert level 2, you must wear a face covering on public transport and aircraft at Alert level 3.
Alert Level 4
At Alert Level 4 means staying at home – and only people delivering or accessing essential services will be moving around, so mask use may be limited.
Is there any proof that masks help stop the spread of COVID-19?
Yes. Health experts now agree that there is strong evidence that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, both from someone who is infected (and might not even know it) and from others who want to stay safe. A mask simply helps stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs or sneezes.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 response is based on our border protections, testing, contact tracing and other public health measures, like washing hands and physical distancing. Masks are an extra protective physical barrier to help keep people safe.
Are there any ‘rules’ with wearing a mask?
For adults, the basic rule is never to share a mask, and always dispose of it safely. Young children, people with breathing difficulties, or people who can’t remove a mask without help should not wear masks. Other simple watch-outs are:
Check your mask. Make sure it’s clean, dry and undamaged.
Clean your hands. Use soap and water or hand sanitiser (at least 60% alcohol).
Put on your mask. Place the face mask over your nose, mouth and chin, then secure it with ties or ear loops. It should fit comfortably, but securely, against the side of your face and allow for easy breathing.
And then clean your hands again!
What are the do’s and don'ts while wearing a face mask?
- touch the front of your mask
- touch your face
- move your mask, including pulling it down below your chin.
- replace the face mask if it becomes damp, damaged or dirty.
- Thoroughly wash your hands if you touch the front of your mask.
How should I remove my face mask?
Clean and dry your hands thoroughly, then remove your mask using the loops from behind and pull it away from your face. Do not touch the front of the mask, and be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Dispose of single-use masks by putting them in a rubbish bin with a closed lid, or in a sealed bag. Never re-use or try to disinfect single-use masks.
You can clean cloth masks by washing them in a washing machine with detergent at 60 degrees Celsius. Dry the mask completely before you use it again. Never use a damp mask.
Either way, don't forget to wash your hands afterwards!