The coronavirus pandemic has meant that face masks and coverings will become part of daily life. The UK government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have both advised wearing face coverings in a bid to reduce the infection transmission of Covid-19.
After months of not being a mandatory requirement in England, the government made face coverings compulsory on public transport from 15 June. Since 24 July, these rules have also applied to all shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, banks, post offices, takeaways and transport hubs in England.
People who don’t wear one will face a fine of up to £100, apart from people with medical conditions, children under 11 and anyone who has a disability meaning they are not able to use one.
Boris Johnson announced an extension to these rules in a government briefing on 31 July. From 8 August, face masks will become compulsory in more indoor settings where you’re likely to come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, including cinemas, museums, galleries and places of worship.
In Scotland, it is compulsory to wear one in shops and on public transport – except for people with certain medical conditions and children under five. Since 27 July, face coverings have also been mandatory on public transport in Wales, including in taxis. The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have also imposed the same rules for public transport.
But what’s not being talked about is the problems that covering your mouth can cause for deaf people and those who have hearing problems and communicate through lip-reading. This has a detrimental affect on the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf or have hearing loss.
Transparent face masks have also slowly started becoming available to help prevent this issue, though they are not yet as widely-accessible as other face coverings we are all buying or making at home.
Of course this is a problem within hospitals too, where NHS staff will be wearing medical face masks, but patients with hearing problems will struggle to communicate. To combat this a Swiss startup company, Hmcare, has begun developing transparent – and importantly, breathable and won’t fog up – surgical face masks, called the HelloMask, which recently secured £820,000 in funding.
These are only available for hospital staff, though, and at the moment the only masks for the public are available from independent sellers on sites like Etsy. Although change is coming.
Nine UK charities; National Deaf Children’s Society, Action on Hearing Loss, Royal Association for Deaf people, Action Deafness, British Deaf Association, Sign Health, British Association of Teachers of the Deaf, Sense and the UK Council on Deafness, are also rallying together to encourage Public Health England and NHS England to commission transparent face masks that will stop those with hearing loss or total deafness feeling isolated.
Ahead we’ve found transparent face masks you can buy online and how to communicate effectively with those who are deaf or hard of hearing. We’ve also covered everything you need to know about when and where to use face coverings, where to buy them from to how to wash one in our face mask buying guide.