You’ve got to wonder at human nature. While the new Coronavirus is closer to killing nearly a million people and infecting over 20 million others, tens of thousands at home and hundreds of startups are rushing to make designer facemasks. Around 15,000 listings are on American e-commerce website Etsy alone.
Trying to look cool and fashionable in the face of death can get you in serious trouble.
In fact, doctors in the UAE have said residents should be cautious when buying fashionable face masks as many of these products did little to protect against COVID-19 infections.
Whether you’re trying to play the “Superhero” look or the super cool one, the result is the same. You’re playing with fire.
The fallacy is that just wearing a facemask, any facemask, is sufficient to prevent COVID-19 or other virus-carrying air droplets to break through the fabric, no matter how flimsy it is.
A new study has revealed what works and what doesn’t and I can tell you right now, most of us are not wearing the right mask, and surely not wearing it properly, but the latter is a subject for a different article.
Which mask is safest?
A group of researchers at Duke University used a laser beam and cell phone to analyze the effectiveness of various types of facemasks, 14 in total, by studying the transmission of respiratory droplets during regular speech.
“But when testing their effectiveness, researchers discovered that some masks are quite literally useless,” CNN reports.
Each mask was tested 10 times.
The most effective mask was the fitted N95. Three-layer surgical masks and cotton masks, which many people have been making at home, also performed well.
The worst were neck fleeces, or gaiter masks and in fact resulted in a higher number of respiratory droplets because the material seemed to break down larger droplets into smaller particles that are more easily carried away with air.
Folded bandanas and knitted masks also performed poorly and did not offer much protection.
A UAE COVID-19 killer face mask
UAE-based ViroMasks claims its newly launched face mask can eliminate COVID-19 virus within 30 minutes.
The masks use Swiss company HeiQ’s Viroblock “intelligent textile technology”, which was designed to eliminate a range of bacteria and viruses.
The HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 has reportedly “tested effective 99.99% in 30 minutes” against SARS-CoV-2.
“HeiQ Viroblock is designed to inhibit the growth and persistence of bacteria and enveloped viruses on textile surfaces,” HeiQ’s company website describes.
ViroMasks also comprise filtration valves that prevent heat and carbon dioxide build-up. Each mask can be reused for up to one year, maintaining antibacterial effectiveness for up to 40 washes, and antiviral effectiveness for up to 20 washes, the company said.
ViroMasks face masks retail for AED 99 (approx. $27) and it’s a project launched by Dubai-based entrepreneurs Usman Khalid and Hammad Anwar who manufacture the products in the country.
Market for face masks
Fatpos Global anticipates the COVID-19 induced face mask market will surpass $7.22 bn by 2030, registering an annual growth rate of over 22%. Increasing concern for the security and safety of workers, growing exposure to toxic air and pollution and rising instances of infectious biological hazards are major drivers for this demand.
No mask…pay fines
The UAE Public Prosecutor’s office has reminded residents that a Dh3,000 fine (about $818) will be enforced for those who are out in public areas without face masks.
The authority specified the circumstances under which residents can be fined for failure to wear one:
1. When visiting indoor public spaces or shopping centers
2. When using public transportation
3. When walking around or being in public areas that are crowded
4. When being in private vehicles that have two or more passengers
The Abu Dhabi Police had earlier said the mask must cover both the mouth and the nose. “No exceptions or excuses” such as smoking or failing to wear them properly, will be accepted, said the cops.
Also in a statement, Abu Dhabi Police said they will issue a Dh1,000 (about $273) fine and six black points if motorists are caught throwing away masks which not only harm the environment but also pose a risk to public safety.