On Friday the 24th July it was made mandatory to wear face coverings whilst in shops and supermarkets within England. We think that it’s important that everyone (including drivers) knows what has changed and why.
In England and Northern Ireland it has been mandatory to wear face coverings whilst utilising public transport since the 15th June. However, in Scotland the law differs; face coverings only started to become a legal requirement from the 15th July, with Wales expected to follow suit shortly. With what is hopefully the worst of the pandemic behind us, the decision to start making facemasks essential now may seem confusing and even unnecessary. However, health experts believe that the lifting of lockdown presents a lot of risk and is, therefore, the most crucial period to be wearing masks in order to control the spread of the disease.
According to Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society – one of the leading research teams in the spread of COVID-19:
“The virus has not been eliminated, so as we lift lockdown and people increasingly interact with each other we need to use every tool we have to reduce the risk of a second wave of infection... There are no silver bullets but alongside hand washing and physical distancing, we also need everyone to start wearing face coverings, particularly indoors in enclosed public spaces where physical distancing is often not possible.”
In the absence of a vaccine, the UK is relying heavily on contact tracing to control the spread of the virus. COVID-19 is airborne and can be transferred through speech. When a person is infected with COVID-19, the virus travels in particles through aerosols and droplets generated during speech. Health and medical experts have determined that when an infected individual uses a face mask that the risk of transmission is almost entirely reduced which, therefore, makes the spread of the disease far less virulent.
Commercial drivers were among the first workers impacted by the enforcement of the face covering laws – especially when travelling abroad. The use of masks has been mandated on public transport since mid-June. This includes ferries, trains, buses etc. However, face coverings are now mandatory in places such as; shops, petrol stations, warehouses, service stations and other public areas. All places that a commercial driver may frequent. Although isolated workers, commercial drivers are still susceptible to the disease when they stop off at different locations. As a result, in order to stay safe it is essential that commercial drivers adhere to the new guidelines and wear a facial covering.
According to legal requirements, any kind of ‘face covering’ is adequate. This includes a scarf, bandanna, or even a DIY sock-mask. However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), surgical masks offer the best level of protection against the virus. These are disposable masks and must be carefully thrown away after each use. The UK Government also recommends surgical masks but notes that masks with two layers of cotton are breathable and also work effectively to prevent the spread of bacteria. These masks are reusable but must be washed after each use.
A face mask must cover your mouth and nose succesfully yet must be comfortable to breathe through. It should be connected to the face by elastic loops around the ears or tied at the back.
DIY face mask: How to Make a Cloth Face Covering
Prior to putting on a face mask you should wash your hands thoroughly. The UK government advises that you should minimise the amount of times you touch the front of the face mask. A facial covering should be changed if it has been touched or if it becomes damp. Before removing the mask you should wash your hands thoroughly. Health experts advise that you should only handle the straps or ties on your mask. You should not share it and it must be washed or thrown into a waste bin (depending on what type of mask it is, see above) immediately. Once the mask is succesfully removed you should wash your hands again.
In addition to wearing a mask, you should always respect social distancing when in a public place. By keeping two metres away others who are not in your immediate bubble, you greatly reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. Always remember to carry hand sanitiser and clean your hands before and after entering a new location.
Although it may seem strange at first, following all of the guidelines is the best way to stay safe and avoid the transmission of the virus.
See our previous article: Seven Smartphone Apps to Get Drivers Through Coronavirus