Since April 3, the Inter-Agency task Force for COVID-19 required the use of face masks or other forms of protective equipment when citizens go out to buy essential items.

For better protection against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), they should be worn in public in places to avoid transmission while practicing social distancing.

But it came to the point when those who are not wearing masks properly (covering nose to chin) were apprehended, detained for lectures and was said to be charged, such as those in Quezon City, including a woman riding a bike who became angry with authorities for detaining her even when she said she could not breathe properly if her mask was covering her nose and mouth while biking.

More than a week ago, mothers who went out to take a walk with their infants or toddlers in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) when it was finally allowed during the general community quarantine since June 1 and explicitly allowed in the guidelines of the city were harassed with police coming after them, threatening to arrest and handcuff them for being outside with their children. National Capital Region Police Office chief Debold Sinas  reasoned that the BGC moms were apprehended because the toddlers were not wearing masks, despite the Taguig police already issuing an apology on the matter.

But many doctors have already said babies and toddlers should not be fitted with masks for risks of suffocation, while older children have to be taught and trained to wear masks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also said prolonged use of medical masks does not lead to CO2 intoxication nor oxygen deficiency. However, it is not recommended to wear masks while exercising. Wet masks could affect breathing especially for those who have underlying medical ailments. Damp or wet masks could easily induce bacterial growth on the mask.

But fear of being arrested by government for not wearing masks aside, read below some points on which mask is better, who should wear them, when to wear them and how to wear them properly.


Which mask is better?

Medical masks, commonly known as surgical masks, are the most commonly available form of masks in the market. They are slightly loose-fitted, fluid-resistant, and provide protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids. When you cough or sneeze, the mask will collect the body fluids, such as spit or mucous, expelled by the wearer. This type of mask is disposable and should be discarded properly after each patient encounter or after use.

Using surgical masks alone can’t really protect you from catching or transmitting the COVID-19 but it can provide some protection against respiratory droplets and possible virus spread. The WHO announced that coronavirus is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.

N95 respirator, on the other hand, could help reduce the wearer’s exposure to particles including small particle aerosols and large droplets. According to the Department of Science and Technology, it is designed to achieve a close facial fit and efficient filtration of airborne particles.These masks are used in healthcare settings like hospitals by healthcare workers.

It is called ‘N95’ because of its capacity to blocks at least 95% of very small (0.3 microns) test particles, roughly the size of a virus. They also work better in filtering out and stopping pollutants, viruses, and bacteria from entering the mouth or nasal passageway. These are subjected to various tests such as fluid resistance, bacterial filtration efficiency, particle filtration efficiency, breathability, and flammability tests to ensure its protective characteristic.

It is not advised to be worn once damaged or deformed. If the mask is also wet or contaminated with body fluids and other hazardous liquids, it should be discarded immediately. There are other N95 equivalent types of mask but they are manufactured in compliance with standards of other countries.

Cloth masks also became a trend even before the time of the pandemic. They are made from various type of fabric and are mostly worn by people to protect themselves from air pollution. However, its effectiveness varies mainly with the kind of material used, the design and construction, or how it was put together. They are not waterproof and loose-fitting. The United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that they should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use.

Because surgical masks and N-95 respirators are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, regular citizens are using cloth face coverings. The lack of supply of PPEs has pushed many hospitals in the country to resort to donation drives to replenish their supply.

The WHO on June 10 released a COVID-19 video explainer on medical and fabric masks: who should wear them, when and how:

  • Medical masks
    • should be worn by health workers, people who have COVID-19 symptoms, and those who take care of someone suspected or confirmed with COVID-19
    • in areas where COVID-19 is widespread and physical distancing of at least one meter cannot be achieved, masks should be work by people who are aged 60 years or over and those who have underlying conditions
  • Fabric masks (or non-medical masks)
    • should be worn by people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms, where COVID-19 is widespread and physical distancing of at least one meter cannot be achieved, may include people who have contact with social workers, cashiers and servers
    • should also be considered in busy public settings such as public transport, workplaces, grocery stores, and other crowded environments

The WHO also said ‘please follow your local authorities’ advice on the use of masks.’


How do we wear them properly?

The WHO released a guideline on the proper usage of medical and fabric masks.

  1. Clean your hands before putting it on
  2. Inspect the masks and do not use it if it’s damaged or dirty
  3. Cover your mouse nose and chin
  4. Adjust the mask to your face, leaving no gaps on the sides.
  5. Avoid touching the mask while wearing it.
  6. Change your masks once it gets dirty or wet.
  7. To take off the mask, clean your hands first. Remove it by the straps behind the head or ears without touching the front of the mask.
  8. After removing the mask, pull it away from your face, clean your hands after taking off any mask.
  9. If you need to re-use a fabric mask, store it in a clean, re-sealable bag.
  10. Hold the mask at the elastic bands when removing it from the bag and make sure it is not dirty or wet, before using it again.
  11. Wash fabric masks in soap or detergent, preferably with hot water, at least once a day.
  12. Make sure you have your own mask and do not share it with others.
  13. When wearing a mask, make sure you know how to put it on, remove it, and discard it or wash it correctly.

But masks alone are not enough to wouldn’t be able to stop the spread of infection.

Since March, various health practitioners and youth groups are calling for efficient contact tracing, isolation and mass testing to fight the spread of COVID-19.


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