“I think it’s good the UK government is finally admitting masks may make a positive impact. However, they were very slow compared to many others.”
As the debate around wearing masks and face coverings has increased in recent weeks, questions about their effectiveness and the lack of government-issued information has been the central topic of conversation.
While governments around the world have faced questions from journalists about the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment), some users are turning to Google and YouTube to find information. Between 5 – 11 April, “how to make a mask with fabric” was the most common Google search beginning with “how to”.
Looking to fill the knowledge gap during the COVID-19 outbreak, many creators have pivoted their channels to sharing information and advice about living through a global pandemic and staying safe. Meanwhile, others who cover topics that are now relevant to current world events are seeing a surge of new viewership on their channel.
One creator, Liam Robinson, creates videos about gas masks, weapons and other militaria. As news and social media coverage of the coronavirus grew in January and February 2020, Liam began receiving comments from viewers in Hong Kong and Taiwan asking him what type of masks would best protect the wearer and which disinfectants could kill the virus.
“This was before it was really being seen all the time in the news over here,” Liam tells TenEighty. “Once I did a video or two on coronavirus, the views started exploding, as I imagine lots of people were not finding many results online. I tried to answer these the best I could. However, I had to keep stressing that I have no medical expertise at all and all my knowledge on the subject came from training resources and manuals on protection from biological agents.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, recently acknowledged for the first time there is evidence that wearing masks in public is beneficial. He confessed in a Downing Street briefing how the effectiveness of wearing face coverings in public was “not straightforward”, but added that wearing a mask may have a “marginal, but positive” impact on reducing the spread of the virus.
Some guidance has also been issued encouraging people to wear face coverings on public transport and in some shops, reports BBC News. It adds a face covering is not the same as a face mask, such as those worn by healthcare workers which should “must continue to be reserved for those who need it”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also suggested that wearing masks may be beneficial and would give the British public confidence to go out after the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
“What I think SAGE is saying, what I certainly agree with, is that as part of coming out of the lockdown, I do think face coverings will be useful,” he said in a briefing, referring to the UK government’s science advisory committee. “Both for epidemiological reasons, but also for giving people confidence that they can go back to work.”
“I think it’s good the UK government is finally admitting masks may make a positive impact. However, they were very slow compared to many others,” Liam says. “I think this may have been due to a supply chain failure getting PPE to medical staff, so they did not want to admit how much of an impact it could have.”
“I think some viewers probably turned to my channel for information, as I find protective equipment interesting and don’t really have an agenda.”
While his channel mostly focuses on the topics of gas masks and weapon collecting, Liam has also recently made videos covering topics including the spread of Coronavirus, government lockdowns and the use of masks in public.
“I think some viewers probably turned to my channel for information, as I find protective equipment interesting and don’t really have an agenda,” he says. “I have Asperger’s syndrome and I guess this is just the niche I find the most fascinating.”
Liam explains that his increase in viewership led to more discussion about conspiracy theories among his viewers, although this isn’t something he entertains on his channel:
“If possible, I do like to try and explain why I do not believe something like 5G can cause coronavirus. It is not a form of ionising radiation and it cannot be detected with a Geiger counter or ionisation chamber, as lots of people seem to assume that a 5G mast gives out nuclear radiation or similar. Some people asking do seem to have legitimate questions, whereas others certainly have more of an agenda.”
When asked about the various levels of protection offered by different masks, Liam explains that a number of questions come to mind. “Does the mask filter air and, if so, how well? Does the mask expire or stop working and need replacing?” He explains, while clarifying that he is not a medical professional. “In general, surgical masks or fabric face coverings are the most basic form of protection to yourself and others. They are not really designed to prevent the wearer inhaling anything, but may offer slight protection. However, they do make it far harder to cough and sneeze onto other people.
“Next come dust masks, also known as FFP3 masks and N95 masks. These are designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne threats in dust form, such as asbestos and sawdust. However, they massively lower the chance of inhaling virus microns, hence why doctors are currently seen wearing FFP3 masks with plastic face shields.
“Lastly are half face and full face respirators, designed to be reusable and cleaned easily. These are generally rubber that fit very well to the face, and a full-face mask with a filter attached both protects the wearer’s face and eyes, as well as filtering any air being inhaled. This is what you would typically call a ‘gas mask’ as in military use would have been used against nuclear, biological and chemical threats.”
“When I’m out, I normally use an Alphamesh builders-style mask.”
In a recent video, Liam discussed the mask he wears out in public. “When I’m out, I normally use an Alphamesh builders-style mask, which has two straps and keeps it tight to your face. People can hear you through it and it doesn’t look very intimidating.”
When asked which of his videos he thinks are a good introduction to his channel and the current topics of discussion, Liam pointed us to his video, Levels of Respirator Protection.
“That video was explaining how a dust mask is better than a surgical mask, but not as good as a gas mask, which is what lots of people currently ask on various videos. This particular video seems be shared by YouTube a lot. I have playlists and videos on other subjects, such as helmets, radiation detectors, etc., so people should hopefully find something that interests them.”
Liam’s content about masks comes as several popular creators have announced their own range of non-medical grade face masks. FaZe Clan, Logan Paul and Morgz have all released custom masks under their clothing brands.