Face masks – where to buy them, how to make your own and when you should wear one

All you need to know about the new advice regarding face coverings. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

All you need to know about the new advice regarding face coverings. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

As the message changes from ‘stay home’ to ‘stay alert’, the Government is advising the use of face coverings in enclosed areas as people begin to increase their number of social contacts.

Despite insisting there was little scientific evidence to suggest that masks were effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus, the Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown suggests they may be of benefit in some places, such as on public transport.

In the Government’s 50-page document, which gives details of how the country will plan to rebuild, leaders are urging the public to wear a face covering where “social distancing is not always possible”.

This face covering, also known as a face mask, covers the mouth and nose and is made of “cloth or other textiles” through which you can breathe, and is not to be confused with a medical-grade personal protective equipment face mask used by healthcare workers.

So why should you wear one?


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The updated guidance states: “As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people’s immediate household. This increased mobility means the Government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.”

The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.

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The guidelines reiterate that if you have symptoms of Covid-19 you and your household should isolate at home, and wearing a face covering does not change this.

What is a face covering?

A face covering is not the same as a face mask, such as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers. These supplies must continue to be reserved for those who need it most.

ESNEFT have reported the deaths of two more coronavirus patients Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

ESNEFT have reported the deaths of two more coronavirus patients Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Face coverings can be made from home – as explained in a step-by-step guide further down this page – and can help reduce the risk of transmission, protecting against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.

You can make face coverings at home, and the key thing to remember is it should always cover your mouth and nose.

Face-coverings are not suitable for everyone however, and should not be used by children under the age of two, or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly. It is also important to use face-coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

When should I wear one?

The Government advises that face coverings should be worn in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example on public transport or in some shops – as the lockdown restrictions begin to ease across the country.

How can I make one at home?

A face covering should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably and can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head. Studies have shown that the best materials to use are tightly woven cottons or twill, natural silk or quilted cotton material, but you can also make do with what you have around your home.

There are various different ways to create a face covering – with many unique version shown on social media, such as even using a sports sock or an old tea towel, but below are the two methods detailed by the Government.

• Using a t-shirt

You can use a t-shirt to create a face covering. Picture: GOV.UK

You can use a t-shirt to create a face covering. Picture: GOV.UK - Credit: GOV.UK

What you will need: an old t-shirt and scissors.

1. Cut a straight line across the width of the T-shirt (front and back) approximately 20cm from the bottom.

2. From a point 2cm below the top right-hand corner of the fabric, make a 15cm horizontal cut through both sides of the fabric that is parallel to the top of the rectangle.

3. Cut down towards the bottom of the fabric until you reach approximately 2cm above the bottom edge. From here, make another 15cm cut that runs parallel to the bottom of the fabric to make a rectangle that can be discarded.

You will need scissors to cut the t-shirt, to help make the face covering. Picture: GOV.UK

You will need scissors to cut the t-shirt, to help make the face covering. Picture: GOV.UK - Credit: Picture: GOV.UK

4. To make the ties, cut open the edge of the two long strips of fabric. Unfold the main piece of fabric and place over the mouth and the nose.

The four strips act as ties to hold the cloth face covering in place and should be tied behind the head and around the neck.

The 4 strips act as ties to hold the cloth face covering in place. Picture: GOV.UK

The 4 strips act as ties to hold the cloth face covering in place. Picture: GOV.UK - Credit: Picture: GOV.UK

• Sewing one

What you will need: two 25cm x 25cm squares of cotton fabric, two 20cm pieces of elastic (or string or cloth strips), needle and thread and scissors.

1. Cut out two 25cm x 25cm squares of cotton fabric. Stack the two squares on top of each other.

2. Fold over one side by 0.75cm and hem, then repeat on the opposite side. Make two channels by folding the double layer of fabric over 1.5cm along each side and stitching this down.

You can also make a sewn cloth face covering with these items. Picture: GOV.UK

You can also make a sewn cloth face covering with these items. Picture: GOV.UK - Credit: Picture: GOV.UK

3. Run a 20cm length of elastic (or string or cloth strip) through the wider hem on each side of the face covering. These will be the ear loops. Use a large needle to thread it through. Tie the ends tightly.

You will need to make two channels by folding the double layer of fabric. Picture: GOV.UK

You will need to make two channels by folding the double layer of fabric. Picture: GOV.UK - Credit: Picture: GOV.UK

4. Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem. Gather the sides of the covering on the elastic and adjust so the covering fits your face. Then securely stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping. These elastic loops fit over the ears.

If you only have string, you can make the ties longer and tie the covering behind your head.

Where can I buy one?

There are face masks/coverings available on sites such as Amazon and Ebay, but do make sure to follow the advice on how to wear them correctly and how to dispose of them.

A number of local retailers and people in the community are also making them at home, either selling them online or often giving them away for free.

Sew Soft Furnishings, an independent business in Capel St Mary, has home-made masks available in a range of different patterns – so you can be stylish while keeping safe.

Meanwhile, Bev’s Eco Products, based in Woodbridge, is also creating masks for the community. For every mask bought here, another one will be sewn and donated to a key worker or vulnerable person in the community. Masks are quality cotton with filter pocket and nose wire and are available in all sizes and different fabrics.

You can then thread the ear loops into place. Picture: GOV.UK

You can then thread the ear loops into place. Picture: GOV.UK - Credit: Picture: GOV.UK

These elastic loops then fit over the ears.Picture: GOV.UK

These elastic loops then fit over the ears.Picture: GOV.UK - Credit: GOV.UK

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