A FAMILY doctor from Bolton says the increase use of face coverings will help keep coronavirus infection rates down, whilst the race for a vaccine continues.

But GP Dr Jane Wilcock warned that wearing a face mask or covering should not lure people into a false sense of security, stressing that physical distancing and other measures should still be followed.

The Bolton News:

Dr Wilcock, who lives in Harwood, added that good 'face covering' etiquette is a must to benefit from using it, and stop the spread of the virus.

She said: "There is some early evidence being published of benefit and a few studies about how the virus travels, how long it is in the air and how air escapes from people breathing when wearing various face coverings. This is still in progress.

"It is not surprising that if we have a barrier to our cough or breathing out that this will slow down the air plume expelled and will help protect those around us.

"If everyone is wearing a face covering, then of course we too gain the benefit.

"So, if as many people who are able wear a face covering do so, it will help keep infection rates down whilst we await better treatments and vaccination."

The Bolton News:

Early last month the World Health Organisation, (WHO), issued guidance on mask use for the public, saying ‘there is no high quality or direct scientific evidence for mask use but weighing up benefits and harms, governments should encourage people to wear non-medical ­— fabric ­— masks and if vulnerable, including over 60 years old, a medical mask in instances where physical distancing may be compromised or there is widespread coronavirus transmission’.

The Bolton News:

Dr Wilcock said: "WHO recommend fabric masks with a minimum of three layers, making production difficult and technical for most people at home.

"In England from June 15 the UK government asked people to wear a face covering if physical distancing is not possible and on public transport, with advice to make face masks using two fabric layers and elastic. "Exemptions are people with certain health conditions, disabled people, and children under 11 years old.

"Looking about, people have made face coverings or bought them, some are fabric, some medical personal protective equipment as fitted masks, some disposable surgical masks, some face shields (visors). The rules of use are important for anyone wearing a face covering.

The Bolton News:

"Firstly, there is a temptation to get nearer to people if wearing a face covering, partly because there is a feeling of security and partly sound production, is reduced.

"If getting close to people is unavoidable, like at the shops, then a face covering should be worn but don’t use it as an excuse to get too close and hug, maintain physical distancing as much as possible.

"It will not protect you from picking up coronavirus if it is on a surface like a table so still avoid touching unnecessarily and maintain hand hygiene."

The Bolton News:

Dr Wilcock said that the face covering must cover the mouth and the nose to prevent virus escape.

"Masks slip down and people often touch the nose to readjust. Touching the front of the face covering means the hands may be contaminated with virus from someone else’s breath, so should be immediately washed with soap and water or alcohol gel. I carry a small bottle in my pocket when out," she said, "Take a small bag out with you. If you enter a café and take the face covering off, don’t put it on the table, potentially contaminating the table surfaces. Place it into a clean bag.

"If you exit a shop and are walking home, or return to your car, you can take the face covering off but don’t stuff it into a pocket and contaminate clothing, put it into a clean bag. Both bag and mask can then be washed."

The Bolton News:

Fabric masks can be washed with the rest of the laundry, but ensure it is checked to make sure the mask hasn’t become too slack or developed wear and holes.
The fabric must be intact. Single use masks should be disposed of into grey bins.
Face shields last for months but need washing carefully with soap and water or alcohol after use. When damaged e.g. dented, then the polypropelene visor part should be recyclable but the forehead band goes in the grey bin.

Dr Wilcock added: "By keeping a distance when possible, maintaining hand hygiene and using face coverings we should be able to avoid local lock down and keep ourselves and others safe whilst starting back into a more normal routine of life work and shopping.

"By being considerate and thinking like a health care worker we should avoid many more coronavirus deaths and I am interested to see if we reduce all the other awful respiratory illnesses this autumn and winter of influenza, bronchiolitis, croup and pneumonias."