In Germany and France people have been told they must wear face masks in certain situations, including when using public transport and in shops, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Whether the British government will follow suit is not clear, although many people are already choosing to don protective gear when out and about. Choosing what mask to buy and who to buy from, however, is a minefield.
There have been reports of people receiving shoddily made masks that do not fulfill safety requirements or being charged extortionate amounts. Follow our guide on how not to get ripped off.
Do I need to wear a face mask?
So far official guidance is that only people who are sick and showing symptoms or are caring for people suspected to have coronavirus should be wearing face masks. This is to ensure there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare and front-line workers. In Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that people use home-made coverings, such as scarves, instead.
What level of protection do I need?
The most protective types of masks are FFP3 or N95 respirators, however these are generally only used in hospitals for staff in closest contact with Covid-19 patients. Otherwise doctors, nurses and carers have been told to wear standard surgical masks. Some people have started wearing home-made masks – scientists are yet to reach a consensus on whether they are effective or not.
If you do choose to wear a mask make sure it fits snugly around your mouth, nose and chin and can filter out particles that could be contaminated.