PETALING JAYA: Some countries are revising their face mask guidelines by recommending “double-masking” or only allowing medical masks, especially as new variants of the coronavirus emerge.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its face mask guidance, which now encourages the wearing of a medical face mask with a fabric face mask layered on top of it.
This double-masking method is one of two ways to improve the fit of medical face masks based on a study the CDC conducted.
The other way is to tie a knot on each ear loop near the point where it is attached to the face mask, and tucking in and flattening the extra “flap” that folds up due to the knot.
The CDC found that both methods helped improve the fit of these face masks and reduced exposure to respiratory droplet particles, which can transmit the coronavirus.
The agency noted that the combination of fabric face masks and medical face masks blocked 85.4% of cough particles, while the knotted and tucked medical face mask blocked 77%.
A face mask fitter or a brace can also be used to prevent air from leaking around the edges of the mask.
The CDC, however, urged people not to wear two surgical face masks at the same time.
The individual must also ensure that their choice of face mask will not impede their ability to see and breathe easily.
Dr Anthony Fauci, who is the United States’ top infectious disease expert, said wearing two types of face masks would likely provide more protection than just one.
“If you have a physical covering with one layer (and) you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective, ” said Dr Fauci, who is also US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser.
Meanwhile, several other countries have required people to use medical face masks instead of fabric face masks.
Germany requires all people to wear medical face masks while on public transport, workplaces and shops, a move which came after the German state of Bavaria introduced an even stricter measure of wearing N95 face masks only.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel cited the emergence of the UK Covid-19 variant, the B.1.1.7, as the primary reason for the intensified face mask regulations.
Countries such as Austria and France have also announced that they will be mandating the wearing of medical-grade face masks in public places.
The World Health Organisation, however, advised in its latest guidelines that medical masks are to be worn by healthcare workers, high-risk individuals (elderly or with health conditions) and those suspected or confirmed to have the virus.
The general public, it advised, can wear a non-medical or fabric mask in public indoor or outdoor settings.
It added that stocks should be prioritised for healthcare workers and high-risk individuals, especially in settings where medical masks are in short supply.
Europe has seen increases in the supply of medical face masks since the start of the pandemic, but certain critics voiced concerns over the environmental impact and costs faced by the people if a ruling for only the use of medical-grade face masks is put in place.