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Coronavirus: Government issues instructions on how to make your own face mask from old t-shirt amid criticism over messaging

'Face coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically,' says new advice

Kate Ng
Monday 11 May 2020 19:42 BST
Prime Minister says face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible

The UK government has published a step-by-step DIY guide to making a “face covering” out of old t-shirts, after people in England were advised to wear masks in enclosed spaces such as public transport and some shops.

Britons are advised to wear a scarf, homemade face mask, or shop-bought mask to cover their nose and mouth to limit the spread of coronavirus, but the government stressed that surgical-grade masks should be reserved for medical workers.

The DIY instructions come as the government published its 60-page Recovery Strategy document, which sets out detailed guidelines for changes to lockdown rules to apply in England from Wednesday.

Workers in the construction, manufacturing and other sectors are being actively encouraged to return to work, but concerns over how people can avoid transmitting and catching the coronavirus outside of their households.

This prompted the government to advise that homemade face coverings “can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances”.

“Face coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically,” added the guidelines.

People who choose to wear such items are urged not to “touch the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose”.

Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly, and people should continue to wash their hands and use hand sanitise

The steps showed how to make two types of masks, one that does not require sewing and another that does. The first can be made simply with an old t-shirt and a pair of scissors, while the other requires more materials including two squares of fabric, two pieces of elastic, scissors and a needle and thread. A sewing machine is “optional”.

Transport for London said all passengers in London should wear face coverings and carry hand sanitiser if they use public transport. The advice applies to anyone using the underground tube network, buses, black cabs and minicabs.

Passengers are also required to stay two metres apart at all times, which means public transport will operate very differently compared to the way things were before the pandemic, said TfL.

The government’s DIY face covering suggestion has drawn some skepticism and laughter from the public, many of whom have joked about the appearance of “covid crop tops”.

One person said: “The government has published guidance on how to make your own face mask out of the bottom of a t-shirt. I’m worried that’ll now have to practice ab crunches in addition to my social distancing.”

Another said: “Why doesn’t the government provide these free, to its citizens? Millions was spent on posting out of date information letters to the public, whereas it could have been better spend on providing face coverings.

“But all we need is a sewing machine + an old t-shirt to do our own LOL.”

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