The latest mandates include a specific request for FFP2 and above masks, models more capable of filtering out virus particles. Research shows that, together with N95 and KN95 masks, they filter at least 94 percent of aerosols. People who wear them can more effectively protect themselves and others, but one type provides solely for the wearer.
Dr Quinton Fivelman, Chief Scientific Officer at the London Medical Laboratory, an independent clinical testing specialist, told Express.co.uk people shouldn’t forget the primary function of mask mandates.
One of the “real dangers” is losing sight of coverings as “community protection”, he said.
Advanced FFP masks with a valve attached to the front erase this core purpose.
Dr Fivelman explained that these should “not become widespread”.
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He said: “These operate on the opposite philosophy to the traditional cloth mask; they protect the individual at the expense of others.
“It can be hard to breathe through high filtration FFP masks, so in some cases, valves are added to filter the air coming in, but not as much going out.
“The wearer enjoys filtered air, but the masks actually direct breath out in a specific direction through the valve.
“As a result, protecting the wearer comes at the expense of anyone standing in front of the valve.”
Anyone aiming to contribute to community protection should use the available non-valved FFP2 models.
A mandate for these in the UK would likely cut transmission, but the country might not be ready for one yet.
Many nations adopting advanced mandates offer FFP2 masks or their equivalents for free.
In the UK, they are still comparatively expensive, with a box of five single-use models selling for £10.
Dr Fivelman explained that this could persuade people not to use them but added they could be more value for money than they appear.
He said: “However, there is increasing evidence that they can safely be worn repeatedly on a seven-day rotation.
“This cuts costs and damage to the environment through plastic waste.
“We believe that, particularly if you are protecting vulnerable people, FFP2 masks are by far the most effective choice if they can be obtained.”
“Failing that, we should at least all make the effort to wear cloth masks in stores and on public transport, even after the latest restrictions are over, to help protect others.”
At present, the Government mandates face coverings in the UK, but without any specific type of mask.
Official documents describe them as “something which safely covers the nose and mouth”.
By law, people have to wear one in most public settings, including shops, public transport and locations like cinemas.