Should You Be Wearing Face Masks Outside?
Face masks have become extremely commonplace over the past year across the UK, as well as around the globe. They have become an essential item to carry when leaving the house and you may be stopped from visiting shops, using public transport or attending a doctor’s appointment without one. However, we have had lots of questions regarding the use of face masks outside and what we advise to promote the best hygiene possible.
With this in mind, we will discuss the government’s guidelines around wearing face masks, how effective face masks are and whether you should be wearing face masks outside to prevent infection. Any mentioned guidelines and laws are applicable in England, and may differ from other areas of the UK, unless stated otherwise.
What Are The Current Guidelines Around Wearing Face Masks?
Currently, the government advice does not specify whether a face mask should be worn outside. Instead, the guidelines highlight that a face mask should be worn in all indoor settings that are not your own home, and this includes, but is not limited to:
- Public transport (trains, buses, trams, aeroplanes and taxis)
- Shops and supermarkets
- Shopping centres
- Post offices, banks, building societies and all money service businesses
- Community centres
- Doctor’s surgeries or hospitals
- Funeral service providers
Essentially, if you are planning on entering any building that is not your home, you must wear a face mask to help prevent any spreading of an infectious virus. If you cannot wear a face mask for medical reasons, you may choose to wear a lanyard or badge to show that you are exempt. However, this is a personal choice and it not required by law.
How Effective Are Face Masks?
It has been shown that face masks are one of the simplest, but most effective ways to combat the spread of an infectious virus. In a report published by The Lancet, it was found that with proper use of a face mask there was just a 3% chance of catching COVID-19. When combined with regular hand-washing and social distancing of at least a metre, the rate of infection can be lowered even further.
Face masks that are at least 2-ply work can prevent droplets, splashes and sprays from reaching other people. Our 3 ply surgical face masks offer a higher level of protection than this. Once these particles are in the air, they can be inhaled by others, and face masks create a barrier against this. When indoors and without a mask, these particles would linger in the air for much longer due to the lack of circulation, so by wearing a mask, the respiratory droplets are contained.
What Are The Guidelines Around Wearing Face Masks Outside?
While the topic of wearing face masks outside isn’t truly covered in the government guidelines, there is research to draw upon to form your own opinion. According to the World Health Organisation, masks only need to be worn when you are indoors or in a crowded setting. This is because the quality of air circulation is either poor or unknown, which depends on the recirculation, the rate of air change and outdoor fresh air. If there any doubts surrounding the air circulation, it is safer to wear a mask, which is why it is advised to always wear a mask indoors.
In an open outdoor space, the air is much fresher than inside a building, with lots more room for circulation. However, it would be beneficial to wear a face mask outside if you are entering a crowded space, or if you are unable to maintain physical distance from others in the same outdoor setting. While the air quality would still be arguably better than in an indoor setting, if social distancing cannot be maintained, it would be safer to wear a face mask outside.
Wearing Face Masks Outside: Our Thoughts
We recommend that you carry clean face masks on your person at all times. While you may believe that the outdoor space you are visiting is safe, no one can predict how busy it might be. By keeping a face mask with you, you will be protected in case of that scenario. We also highly recommend wearing a face mask outside in all crowded outdoor settings, unless you are exempt, but when it comes to wearing a face mask in a quiet outdoor space, this is a personal choice.
Factors to consider are how long you will be spending outside, whether there are vulnerable people with you or around the space, and how much movement you are planning. By taking these things into account, you will be able to choose whether it is necessary to wear a face mask outside, but if in doubt, carry one with you to be safe.