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Mask-wearing on the street: why it's more important than you think

By Lydia Wilson

The UK government has expanded the enforcement of face coverings to include even more indoor areas where there is a likely chance you will come in contact with people outside your household. As this continues to develop, the idea of wearing a mask when outside your home is starting to sound like an appropriate measure. This is not to say that you need to gear up to go on a nice country stroll, however with more people making their way into the city and onto the highstreets the chances of encountering strangers is admittedly higher than in your own backyard.

Although it is not mandatory to wear a face covering at all times when out in public, there is increasing reason to wear a mask beyond where it is law enforced (e.g when entering a place of business). WHO recommends that a non-medical-grade face covering should be worn when social distancing measures are impossible, and while it is still possible to dodge the odd passer-by, chances are that someone will float into your bubble on a narrow or busy street. Wearing a mask when moving from location to location may seem like a hassle, but it could actually be a sensible precaution in situations where social distancing is more difficult to maintain. Especially since new evidence suggests that the COVID-19 virus can also potentially be airborne and not just transmitted by respiratory droplets caused by coughing or talking. Meaning that the virus could “remain in the air for long periods of time and be transmitted to others over distances greater than 1 m.” (WHO, March 2020)

You may also be tempted to pull down or remove your mask as soon as you leave the threshold of whatever establishment you've just left, however this increases the risk of your mask being contaminated. If you then put that same mask back on, say when walking from the local pub to your house, you risk your mask tracking the virus up to your mouth and nose. If you feel like this is a likely scenario, or if you will be out of the house for a while, I would strongly recommend carrying a spare mask and a bag to contain your used one.

The idea of wearing a mask longer than is strictly “necessary” doesn't sound very appealing, however in some situations it might actually be the most practical and convenient option to just wear the face covering until you get home or into your car. In these confusing and strange times, "better safe than sorry" is a saying that we should all try to live by.

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