Updated advice on wearing masks
The Ministry of Health has updated its advice on wearing masks, this is as a part of our ongoing response to COVID-19.
We have seen in other countries that masks can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 when there are cases of the virus being transmitted through communities (community transmission).
We should all prepare now to use masks before there may be a need to use them.
Advice for Deaf people and using masks
If you are someone who relies on New Zealand Sign Language, or visual facial cues such as lip reading, or are needing to communicate with someone who does, you can to remove your mask to talk, but you must maintain a physical distance of 2 metres.
Where it is not possible to wear a mask and you have been told or encouraged to wear a mask, please maintain a physical distance of 2 metres.
If you wear a hearing aid, you need to be careful when putting on or taking off your face mask to make sure you don’t lose your hearing aid or get it tangled in the mask ties or loops. Using a face mask that ties around the head, rather than over your ears, will help keep the ties free from your hearing aid.
Get enough masks for everyone in your household
The Ministry of Health now recommends that you add masks to your emergency kit. You should make sure there are enough masks for everyone who usually live at your household. Retail shops have enough masks for everyone in New Zealand.
Types of mask
Most people don’t need masks that are medical–grade. Medical–grade means something that has been designed to be used by health professionals at work. You can get masks that are designed to be washed and reused, or masks that are single-use. Single-use means designed to be used once and then disposed of once you have finished using it. You can buy these online, or in places like pharmacies, super markets and hardware stores.
If you want to make your own masks, you can, but it is recommended that you buy your masks from a well-known place.
People at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 should get medical-grade masks to help prevent them from getting sick.
The Ministry of Health will make sure there is enough supply of medical-grade masks to distribute to the wider health sector.
Wearing masks at different Alert Levels
Mask will be most useful when COVID-19 is present within the community and people are in close contact with each other (within 2 meters), like at work or in social settings.
Alert Level 1
At Alert Level 1, you do not need to wear a mask because there are no signs of community transmission of COVID-19.
Alert Level 2
At Alert Levels 2 and above the risk of COVID-19 being present in the community is higher. So, wearing a mask becomes more important.
If we move to Alert Level 2, you should wear masks in situations where physical distancing is not possible, like on public transport or in shops.
Alert Level 3
At Alert Level 3, masks are required when physical distancing is not possible
Alert Level 4
At Alert Level 4, only people working in essential services will be moving around, so mask use may be limited.
Why wearing masks helps to stop the spread of COVID-19
COVID-19 is spread from close contact with a person who has COVID-19. Wearing a mask help to keep you and others safe.
A mask helps stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes. This includes someone who may have COVID-19 but feels well or is not obviously sick.
Masks are especially useful when physical distancing is not possible.
Our strategy to protect New Zealand against COVID-19 is based on our border protections, testing, contact tracing and other public health measures, like washing hands and physical distancing. Masks are an extra measure to keep people safe.
How to use a face mask safely
- Make sure your hands are clean when you put the mask on,
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and dry them thoroughly;
- If you can’t access soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol. If you’re using sanitiser, make sure that you use enough to cover your hands and rub your hands together until dry;
- Put the face mask over your nose and mouth and used the head ties or ear-loops to keep it in place. Make sure the mask fits snugly, and your mouth, nose and chin are fully covered;
- Your mask should be comfortable with no gaps between the mask and your face, and lets you breathe easily;
- Don’t touch the front of your mask or your face or eyes while wearing a mask;
- Replace your face mask if it becomes damp, damaged, or dirty;
- Before you take your mask off, clean your hands again by washing them or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser;
- Take your mask off carefully by holding the ear loops or untying the ties. For face masks that tie around the head, undo the bottom tie before you undo the top one;
- If you are using a single-use mask, when you are finished using it make sure it is put in a closed bin or a sealed plastic bag before you put it in the bin;
- Clean your hands again;
- Do not reuse or try to disinfect single-use disposable face masks; and
- If you are using a reusable cloth mask, make sure it is washed after each use using hot water (60 degrees Celsius) and detergent, and it has dried entirely before reusing it.