As of Monday, anyone out shopping or on public transport must wear a face mask.

Times of Malta spoke to resident specialist cardiologist at Mater Dei Hospital Melanie Zammit Burg, who provided a step-by-step guide how to properly wear a face mask.

Zammit Burg, who has created other explainer videos during the pandemic, also provides guidelines on how to dispose of the mask and which masks to use. 

“If used correctly it can protect you and others but if used in the wrong way, it can cause more harm than good,” Zammit Burg said. 

What types of masks are available? 

Types of mask.

Surgical masks

These are masks worn by healthcare workers while carrying out surgeries in theatre. Such masks have three layers, including an outer layer that acts as a water-resistant barrier to any splashes. It stops saliva, blood or other droplets from getting to the face. It also has an inner water-resistant layer that will soak up saliva or vapour from the mouth. 

The middle layer is that which will filter the particles that are larger. Surgical masks filter any particles larger than three microns - a single strand of hair is 70 microns. 

COVID-19 is transmitted through droplets which are larger than five microns, which means they will be “caught” in the mask. 

Two-ply masks are not as effective, Zammit Burg said. Use the three-layer masks when possible. 

FFP2 or N95 masks

These are the “more sophisticated” masks and their supply is more limited, Zammit Burg said. Such masks will filter out 95 per cent of particles larger than 0.3 microns.

COVID-19 particles become this fine when they are aerosolised during “specific procedures in hospital”, Zammit Burg said. This is during anaesthesia or CPR.  

“You only really need these masks in these situations,” the cardiologist said.

Such masks must also be fit-tested and therefore should only be used by healthcare professionals. 

How do you put on a face mask? 

How to wear a mask.

(These instructions are for the soft, single-use surgical masks.)

  1. Wash hands with alcohol rub or soap and water.
  2. Pull hair away from face. Men with long beards should trim them.
  3. Place top side of mask which has a metal strap over the nose.
  4. The coloured side is usually the outside of the mask and should face away from the face. The inside is white.
  5. Pressing the metal part down and pinching the bridge of the nose, create a seal.
  6. Loop the loops around the ears. These can be looped twice if the face is small.
  7. Pull down mask to cover from the bridge of the nose all the way down to the chin.
  8. Do not touch the mask while wearing it as droplets could be on it. Wash hands if you do touch it by mistake

How should you take off a face mask? 

How to take off a mask.

1. Wash your hands thoroughly. 
2. Grab the mask by the loops, pull it over your face and dispose of it in a dustbin. 
3. Wash your hands thoroughly once again, immediately.

Single-use masks must be worn only once. 

What about homemade masks?

Surgical masks might be scarce and should ideally be reserved for healthcare professionals. In that case, you could also make your own.

A 2013 study had found that vacuum cleaner bag is the best filter, but that the bag's stiffness and thickness made it unsuitable for a face mask.

The study had found that a pillowcase and 100% cotton t-shirt are probably the most suitable household materials for an improvised face mask. But any tightly-woven cotton will work well, especially if you use at least three layers.   

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