High-risk people should consider wearing two face masks to guard against contracting the Omicron variant, two Hong Kong virus experts said, as the city attempts to stamp out an outbreak of the highly infectious virus.
Wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask can “tighten the gap not covered by the surgical mask, which is often very loose,” said David Hui, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a member of the government’s scientific committee. He recommended the measure for high-exposure groups, people in outbreak areas and on public transport.
Yuen Kwok-Yung, a renowned microbiologist, told local radio that people with chronic diseases or who can’t receive Covid vaccines, along with high-risk workers such as airport staff, could also consider double-masking, which helps boost filtering capabilities.
The advice comes as Omicron is suspected to have spread at events where people were already wearing masks. Hong Kong, which along with mainland China is the last place still adhering to a strict Covid-Zero policy, is in partial lockdown for two weeks with gyms, cinemas, primary schools and kindergartens shut after dozens of locally-transmitted cases of Omicron were detected.
The call to use more mask protection against Omicron isn’t unique to Hong Kong. In the U.S., the potential for a new recommendation from health regulators is unleashing a scramble for higher-quality N95 masks and boosting prices.
Yuen said there’s no need yet for the wide adoption of N95 masks in Hong Kong given the low case count. N95 masks are more expensive and more difficult to breathe in for everyday use, he said.
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