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Where can I buy a coronavirus N95 face mask?

BRITS remain in lockdown, but still need to go to high risk areas like supermarkets where extra protection has become more important.

Masks like N95 surgical face masks are a good option to help spread coronavirus further - but where can you get them and is the protection they offer effective?

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 Many of the public are looking to buy N95 surgical face masks
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Many of the public are looking to buy N95 surgical face masksCredit: Reuters

Where can I buy N95 surgical face masks?

When buying a mask beware of the language being used by sellers as the level of protection provided varies.

UK Meds is offering FFP2 (N95-equivalent) single-use surgical face masks for a price of £11.95.

You can also get a box of three masks for £28.95.

The website states that these meet the requirement from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for fighting Sars, avian flu and coronavirus.

You can also buy 50 standard surgical masks for £49.99.

Amazon also offers a variety of different face masks, with the surgical models available for under £10 with free delivery.

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eBay sells a variety of surgical face masks too.

A range of other sites, including Bioide, are also supplying masks to the public and various companies - yet be sure to check the masks have the necessary certification.

Should I be wearing a face mask?

More than 100 medics across the UK are urging the public to either make, or buy online, their own reusable cotton masks and to wear them every time they leave the house during the pandemic.

Some single use masks can be sterilized in the oven to make them good to go again and save you money.

You can also make your own mask from common household items that is as effective as most of the ones on the market.

Surgical masks for general public use is debated because they can become contaminated by other people's coughs and sneezes or when putting them on and removing them, but it beats nothing.

The government's scientific advisers are reviewing whether or not to make mask-wearing mandatory.

They are expected to reach a verdict soon - it's best to wait and see what they say first, before stocking up on masks which could be used by people who really need them.

Experts also warn that these masks can offer a false sense of security and frequent hand-washing and social distancing are more effective.

It is also recommended that only healthcare workers should be wearing the most protective N95/FPP2 and FPP3 masks.

How to wear the N95 face mask

Most masks will come instructions, but they must cover your nose and mouth to avoid breathing in any virus particles.

Once you have placed the mask over your nose and mouth, use the straps to tighten around your head so it fits snugly on your face.

Fitting could become a problem with facial hair, including a beard, as research has shown that even a day's beard growth can allow air to flow inside the mask.

To check if it fits properly, a negative check requires you to place both hands over the mask - making sure not to move the mask - and breathe in sharply.

If the mask pulls in towards your face and there are no air leaks around your nose and eyes, then it is fine - otherwise adjust the straps and nose placing.

The positive test is the same, but you breathe out, making sure any extraction valve is covered with your hands.

No air should leak out around your nose and eyes, or you will need to adjust the straps and nose placing.

If either check fails, repeat once you have corrected the mask.

Do N95 face masks protect me from coronavirus?

The WHO recommends that only two groups of people should wear N95 face masks. These are:

  • People who are sick and showing symptoms
  • People caring for those with coronavirus.

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Cheaper face masks made by reusable cloth are also not recommended and could increase chances of infection.

Public Health England has warned that masks are only effective if used properly.

A spokesperson said: "Facemasks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour in order for them to be effective.

"Research also shows that compliance with these recommended behaviours reduces over time when wearing face masks for prolonged periods."

What are N95 masks?

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, which comes with a logo.

They are used to stop you from breathing in hazardous small particles, such as dust, mould or aerosol paint particles.

They generally have an eight-hour shelf life before becoming clogged depending on the work you're doing.

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