Information about Face Masks

General Information for the Community re COVID-19

NSW Health strongly encourages people to wear facemasks when unable to physically distance, particularly in indoor settings to keep everyone safe. Masks are particularly recommended in indoor settings such as on public transport and in places where people congregate, such as places of worship and entertainment areas. Masks should not be worn by young children or anyone who has trouble breathing or who is unable to remove the mask themselves without assistance.

For multilingual information about using facemasks in various settings, see here.
For translated information about how to safely wear facemasks, see here.

Advice re the use of Face Masks

Advice from the World Health Organistion re face masks is:

Surgical masks should be worn by health workers, anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, anyone who cares for someone with COVID-19 symptoms, and, where physical distancing is not possible, by older persons and those with underlying health conditions.

Fabric masks should be worn by everyone in areas where COVID-19 is widespread and physical distancing is not possible.  This may include people who are in close contact with others, such as social workers, cashiers, and people serving food.  Fabric masks should also be used in busy public settings such as public transport like buses, share taxis and trains, workplaces, grocery stores and other crowded environments.

Advice from the NSW Government (as at 2 August 2020) is:

The NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant specifically recommends

  • the use of face masks in indoor settings where physical distancing is hard to maintain, such as on public transport or in supermarkets
  • the use of face masks (where practical) in indoor settings with a higher risk of transmission, such as for the staff of hospitality and customer-facing venues i.e. cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs
  • during attendance at places of worship.

Wearing a mask in any of these settings is not mandatory but is highly recommended, especially in areas where there has been community transmission.  

Putting DIY masks to the test

Doctor Norman Swan interviewed Raina Macintyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity and Head of the Biosecurity Program, Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, about research findings on the efficacy of the different kinds of face coverings one could use to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.  The Kirby Institute collaborated with the UNSW Faculty of Engineering to look at how aerosols and droplets are emitted from humans during coughing, sneezing, breathing, speaking, etc..  The research looked at the difference between not wearing a mask, wearing a single-layer cloth mask, wearing a two-layered cloth mask, and wearing a surgical mask with three layers when you speak, cough and sneeze.  Listen to or read the full interview here:

How to wear a mask correctly

The following information about wearing a mask correctly:is provided courtesy of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

Surgical mask (single use)

  • Before putting on the mask, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use a hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60% alcohol.

  • Check for defects in the mask, such as tears or broken loops.

  • Position the outer side of the mask outward according to the instructions of the manufacturer. 

  • If present, make sure the metallic strip is at the top of the mask and positioned against the bridge of your nose.

  • If the mask has:

    • Ear loops: Hold the mask by both ear loops and place one loop over each ear.

    • Ties: Hold the mask by the upper strings. Tie the upper strings in a secure bow near the crown of your head. Tie the bottom strings securely in a bow near the nape of your neck.

    • Dual elastic bands: Pull the bottom band over your head and position it against the nape of your neck. Pull the top band over your head and position it against the crown of your head

  • Mould the bendable metallic upper strip to the shape of your nose by pinching and pressing down on it with your fingers.

  • Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.

  • Be sure the mask fits snugly.

  • Don’t touch the mask once in position.

  • If the mask gets soiled or damp, replace it with a new one.

Fabric Masks

A cloth mask should fit securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas. The mask should fit snugly on your face and be secured by ties at the back of your head or ear loops. If you are using a mask with ear loops, you can use a plastic clip or tie to join the ends together at the back of your head to make sure it fits snugly on your face.

Make sure that your mask does not have holes or a valve. This can result in breathing out the virus if you have coronavirus (COVID-19).

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60% alcohol before putting it on and after taking it off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used face masks in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.

All Masks

The following information is from NSW Health:

Prevent the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask. Follow this list to ensure you’re wearing a mask safely.

- Wash your hands immediately if you accidentally touch the mask
- Change the mask when it becomes moist
- Change the mask if sprayed or splashed on, or contaminated with blood or body fluids
- Wash your hands if you need to remove the mask. Put the (single use) mask into a bin and put another mask on.

- Touch the mask or your face as this contaminates the mask
- Pull the mask below your nose or chin
- Leave the mask hanging around your neck or on top of your head
- Reuse an old (single use) mask or one that doesn’t fit your face well


Children and Face Masks

The following information is from the World Health Organisation.


Q&A:  Children and masks related to COVID-19, 21 August 2020 - The World Health Organisation has compiled a list of questions and answers on children and masks including, should children wear a mask, should children with developmental disabilitie wear masks, what type of masks should children wear.

More information ...

More information on the use of face masks can be found on the following websites:

The NSW Government:

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services:

The World Health Organisation: