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Govt advises use of masks in enclosed spaces

Masks are already compulsory on public transport, both for passengers and drivers. As from Friday August 28, the use of face coverings will be mandatory in all covered public areas. Photo by Stephen Ignacio

The Gibraltar Government is recommending the use of face masks or face coverings in enclosed public spaces such as supermarkets to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Wearing face masks is compulsory on public transport, though the Government said these will not be provided by the bus service.

The advice marks a shift in the government’s stance, reflecting evolving research on the impact of masks on limiting the spread of Covid-19.

The Government is not advising the use of masks in open spaces, but says there is some benefit to using them in enclosed spaces where social distancing may prove difficult.
In a statement, the Government said recent scientific evidence confirms that face coverings can help protect individuals and reduce the spread of the Covid-19, especially for those infected with coronavirus but not showing symptoms.

This is of prime concern as lockdown measures are lifted, the Government added, not least because almost all recent cases are asymptomatic carriers detected through targeted screening of frontline workers.

Covid-19 can be spread directly by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking; the droplets can also be picked up from surfaces by touch and subsequently from touching the face. It is therefore important that people refrain from touching their face covering when wearing it to avoid hand to mask transmission of the virus.

The Government recommends using a face mask or covering in places where usual social distancing measures may be difficult.

“A cloth face covering should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably, it can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head,” the Government said.

The statement lists considerations such as face coverings are not recommended for children under the age of two and for those who cannot manage them properly.

In addition, it says washing hands before putting the mask on and after taking it off is vital.

It said regular cleaning or washing of reusable masks is important as this will prevent self-infection that can occur by touching and reusing a contaminated mask.

However, the Government said wearing a face mask can give an individual a “false sense of security leading to potentially less adherence to other preventing measures”, adding that a mask should not replace other hygiene measures such as washing hands, physical distancing and respiratory hygiene.

It also urged caution in the use of the mask.

People are advised to avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used face coverings in a plastic bag until they have an opportunity to wash them.

“Do not touch the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose,” the statement said.

“Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched.”

A face covering can be washed with other laundry, while disposable face masks are also available to purchase from local pharmacies.

Meanwhile, healthcare workers and anyone in contact with confirmed Covid-19 cases will need to follow PPE guidance and use medical masks as appropriate.

The Government said it is important to note that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms is urged to go home and call 111 for advice.

Guidance on wearing a face covering can be found at (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-wear-and-make-a-cloth-face-covering/how-to-wear-and-make-a-cloth-face-covering) and for instructions on how to make a suitable face covering, visit www.covid.gi.