BRITS are set to be told to wear face masks in public to help stop the coronavirus from spreading, so where are the best places to buy them?
Experts have told ministers that coverings could stop "asymptomatic people" – those who are infected but not showing symptoms – from passing on the disease.
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The guidance is set to say that those who can't stay more than two metres apart should wear a cloth face mask, such as a homemade mask, scarf or other non-surgical covering.
It's believed that the experts think face coverings won't help stop Brits from catching the virus themselves, but could help in stopping them spread it to others.
Ministers are expected to study the findings over the next few days before making the decision public and changing official guidance.
Face coverings – such as a scarf or home made mask – are different to the surgical and N95 masks that doctors and nurses have to wear in hospitals.
Brits should avoid using these as NHS needs them.
What are the different types of face masks?
WE take a look at some of the different types of face mask and how well they work.
N95 masks are disposable face masks that are proven to filter the air to an industrial standard.
Manufacturers vary, but the N95 is a stamp from the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to show that it is efficient.
They generally have an 8-hour shelf life before becoming clogged depending on the work you're doing.
As they offer so much protection, they are used by doctors and nurses in a medical setting.
However, they have not been recommended for use to the general public yet due to supply issues for health workers.
These disposable 3-ply masks are fluid-resistant are the most common type of facial protection you'll see health care staff wearing.
They are used to prevent infected droplets from doctors, nurses and carers entering the respiratory system of the patient.
Although they don't have built-in air filters, they are considered effective enough for most staff outside of intensive care.
They are disposable and are only intended to be worn once.
DIY dust masks (FFP)
Found in most hardware stores, dust masks can offer some level of protection from particles – if worn correctly.
If it says FFP1 then it’s a basic kind of dust mask and offers the lowest level of filtration for this kind of respirators mask.
To meet European standards, they have to be able to filter at least 80 per cent of particles – with FFP 3 filtering 99 per cent.
That means that it can’t filter out tiny particles associated with viruses and bacteria.
You can also get a FFP3 mask, which looks similar but has a small filter in the middle to catch almost all airborne particles.
Short of being a full gas mask, it offers the best protection – as long as it fits properly – and is more effective than an N95 as well as the FFP1 and FFP2.
These are generally worn by cyclists to prevent them from breathing in pollution in heavy traffic.
Usually made from neoprene, they fit tightly to the face and are intended to offer a level of protection from airborne particles.
Some are also marketed as N95, or N99 grade, which means the amount of filtered airborne particles is either 95 or 99 per cent.
Where can I buy coronavirus face masks online?
The British public hasn't yet officially been advised to wear face masks to protect against coronavirus – unless you're caring for someone with the disease or you work on the frontline.
But this could change in the coming days, so below we round up where to buy DIY dust masks and cycling masks online.
High demand means a lot of retailers have already sold out, but there are some shops with stock.
Just make sure to check delivery times beforehand as your order may be delayed due to the coronavirus.
DIY dust masks
Dust masks are sold by a number of DIY retailers, including B&Q, Screwfix and Wickes.
But due to high demand, both B&Q and Wickes have currently sold out of DIY dust masks.
The prices usually start at £1.80 and £1.25 respectively, although B&Q customers also face an hour long online queue to get on the website.
Meanwhile, Screwfix is selling dust masks with prices starting from £5.99.
It doesn't offer home delivery on these though, so you'll need to click and collect to your nearest Screwfix shop.
Amazon is also selling a wide range of dust masks, with prices starting from £2.99, excluding a £1 delivery fee.
The protection they'll give varies though, so make sure you double-check this before you order.
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If you prefer a cycle mask to protect yourself and others against coronavirus, you may be pleased to know that Wiggle.co.uk is selling a number of anti-pollution versions.
The prices start from £27.99 and home delivery is free on all UK orders above £16.
Alternatively, you may find good options on eBay, as one mask costs just £4.41, excluding the 35p delivery charge.
Freshmasks.co.uk is also selling a dust-proof cycling face mask for £13.71.
Amazon, Cotswold Outdoors and Evans Cycles usually also sell cycling masks, but they're currently all listed as unavailable.
If you already have a mask, Evans Cycles has listed a two-pack of filters as in stock for £22.99.
How to make a homemade mask
IF you're unable to find a mask, you could make your own at home.
Homemade masks won't offer the same level of protection as medical-grade ones, but it hasn't stopped DIY tutorials popping up online.
One of the simplest ones involves using two layers of kitchen roll and one tissue cut in half.
You then cover each end with masking tape – and you can even tape down some wire to stiffen the mask, if you have any.
Finish by punching holes in each end and threading elastic through to fit around your ears.
If you don't have elastic bands you could also use a hair tie.
What other type of face coverings can you use?
As many people can’t get their hands on a mask, some have turned to fashioning their own.
There have been tips on using vacuum cleaner bags and even sanitary towels to cover your face.
While most won’t be as effective as anything you can buy in a store, they will offer more protection than not covering your face at all.
Research by Public Health England in 2013 looked at the suitability of household materials that could be used as masks to filter bacterial and viral aerosols and found vacuum bags actually worked well.
Experts say that you should aim for multiple layers – a double layer of tightly-woven cotton with a thread count of at least 180 was one of the best barriers, according to researchers in the US.
Even a bandana, scarf or T-shirt can be used to cover your nose and mouth while in public.
If you do use a bandana or scarf, or any face mask for that matter, it's important that you don't become complacent.
You still need to follow the advice of often washing your hands and keeping a two metre distance to people you meet.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan and former PM Tony Blair have both added their voices to the calls for facial coverings and masks.
Ministers have been considering for weeks whether to change advice, but have insisted they will be guided by the science.
Teachers have also warned they may not go back to school without masks or other PPE to protect them.
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