Clear face masks and face coverings – where to buy and what to look forPublished Date: 14 Sep 2020
An introduction to face masks and coverings in health and care settings and in use by the public
Face masks worn by staff in the NHS and Social Care settings are part of a package (including gloves, aprons, face shields etc) known as PPE or Personal Protective Equipment.
PPE is designed to protect both the wearer from picking up any infection, as well as to prevent the member of staff from passing on any infection that they may have but be unaware of (known as being asymptomatic). PPE is always single-use and has to be changed regularly to prevent transfer of infection between individuals. It has to be taken on and off in a very careful way to avoid any infection on the PPE from coming into contact with the wearer. PPE face masks have to be fitted to ensure that they fit the individuals face well, with no gaps around them to allow virus transmission in and out. NHS guidelines on PPE is available here
At the moment schools are not being advised to wear face masks, either by teachers or students, with the exception of situations where school staff provide personal care to a child when they should follow current guidance. In this situation schools would usually use PPE quality masks as above.
The general public have been asked to wear face masks or coverings in certain enclosed public spaces. The rules are different across the UK (you can find the up-to-date guidance in your country here).
The best way to prevent virus transmission in public is by physical spacing between individuals (social distancing) and regular hand washing, but when physical distancing is not possible then a face mask or covering may help prevent virus transmission.
In contrast to PPE, masks or coverings worn by the public are not designed to protect the wearer. Instead they act as a physical barrier blocking any virus transmission from the wearer to people around them while talking or coughing etc. Face masks or coverings worn by the public can be re-used multiple times with regular washing in between uses.
Face masks and coverings must cover the mouth and nose to be effective and the wearer should wash their hands before and after removing their mask. The mask should be kept in a clean plastic bag when not in use. Wearers should avoid touching their face when wearing a mask and should avoid pulling it on and off regularly because any virus on another part of their face or neck could be transferred to their mouth and nose.
PPE is manufactured to standards that cover the materials used and manufacturing methods. The NHS uses PPE that has been certified by CE marking which shows the product complies with EU safety, health and environmental requirements.
There are currently no UK product standards for face coverings and the government has advised that home-made face coverings are suitable for use by the public and has information here. The World Health Organisation and Welsh Government recommends that face masks and coverings are made of three layers of fabric.
However, the British Standards Institution (BSI) have recently introduced a new BSI Kitemark for face coverings which aims to provide consumers with confidence that their face covering provides some level of protection for those around them. The certification scheme has been developed for manufacturers of face coverings who wish to demonstrate that their products have been independently assessed to perform as intended. Achieving a BSI Kitemark for a product is voluntary.
Buying face masks or coverings for use in public places
NDCS has been campaigning to have clear face masks widely available in both NHS and public settings to help improve communication with deaf children without the need to remove masks.
The Department for Health and Social Care (in England) announced the delivery of 250,000 clear face masks to support people with hearing loss. Further updates on our campaign success with the NHS can also be found here.
A number of manufacturers have approached NDCS since our campaign launched to let us know about new products they have available. Below you will find a list of manufacturers who sell clear face masks. We believe that they meet the advice of the Government that “In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.”
NDCS has not tested these products and makes no claims, either express or implied, that the shared resources will prevent infection or transmission of viruses or other diseases.
NDCS advises that you research options to determine what would be most suitable in your situation. This would include thinking about how well the mask fits, what situations you are using them in, and manufacturing standards that have been used. Some products may be available to both the NHS and public and meet different infection control levels. For example you may be able to purchase both a CE marked product and a non-CE marked product that appear identical. We would advise readers in Wales to additionally consider the advice there to use a mask or covering that is made of three layers of material.
If you have a product you would like added to this list please email [email protected]
The ClearMask is also available to buy from:
Other manufacturers of clear face masks or coverings include:
We are also aware of some international manufacturers: