Face masks – Q&A

August 10, 2020

I’ve been hearing a lot about face masks recently. Why should I wear one?

Official advice from the Department of Health is:

“Face coverings are now required on public transport, in retail environments and in other indoor settings where physical distancing is difficult, such as hairdressers, cinemas and museums.

Wearing cloth face coverings may help prevent people who do not know they have COVID-19 (Coronavirus) from spreading it to others.”

If you wear a face covering, you should still do the important things necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

These include:

  • washing your hands properly and often
  • covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
  • not touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • social distancing (keeping at least 2 metres away from other people)

 Visit gov.ie for more information.

Are there different standards of face coverings? Which type should I wear?

A cloth face covering is material you wear that covers the nose and mouth.

Cloth face coverings are made from materials such as cotton, silk, or linen. You can buy them or make them at home using items such as scarfs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.

Note: Face coverings are not intended to protect the wearer against viral infection.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) face masks and medical/surgical face masks are of a different regulatory standard and Government has asked that they be reserved for healthcare workers and frontline staff at this time.

Barrier masks PPE face masks Medical face masks
Also known as Textile masks, comfort mask, community masks, face covering Respirators; respiratory protection mask; filtering face mask. Surgical face masks
Typical images
Intended purpose To reduce the risk of spread of infection in the community Personal protection from hazardous substances for the wearer A barrier to minimise the direct transmission of infective agents from staff to patients during surgical procedures and other medical settings with similar requirements.


I’ve been searching online for face coverings for my family and I to use. How can I tell if they are safe to use? Should they have a CE mark? 

There are a number of product safety requirements that businesses have been advised to include on the packaging of face coverings.

Examples of such features are as follows:

  • Look for markings: such as the wording ‘barrier mask’ or ‘face covering’ on the packaging or in the product description online or on the packaging. Note: Face coverings must NOT have a CE marking.
  • Check the producer details: look for the name and address of the producer of the mask, which should be included on the product packaging.
  • Make sure instructions are included: the product package or online description should say whether it is single use or reusable. It should also include relevant cleaning instructions as well as guidance on how to put on your mask, how to use it and how to safely remove it. Information should be in English.
  • Look out for warnings: a face covering should not explicitly say or imply that it will protect you against viral infection, such as COVID-19. Instead, it should say that it can be used in conjunction with relevant public health advice (for example, social distancing, safe respiratory etiquette etc.) to help prevent the spread of viruses to others.
  • Safety advice: check for warnings or warning symbols of age restrictions (for example, not suitable for children under the age of three etc.) or if children should be supervised while wearing the face covering at all times.
Top Tip
Only buy face coverings that include the above information and markings to ensure they are safe for you to use.

Face coverings that do not provide the appropriate packaging information and markings should be referred to the CCPC for further investigation. Please contact our consumer helpline (01 402 5555) with relevant information about your purchase, along with product images and proof of purchase (if available).

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