Half of face masks in care homes fail to meet coronavirus safety standards

a woman wearing a non-surgical face mask
Photo: Marek Studzinski/Pixabay
a woman wearing a non-surgical face mask
Photo: Marek Studzinski/Pixabay

Around half the face masks being used in care homes to protect staff and residents from coronavirus are substandard, according to a survey by AD.nl.

The newspaper sent 25 types of mask used by nursing homes around the country for analysis by Greencycl in Utrecht. Twelve of the masks were found to let more viral particles through than the maximum safe level.

In the worst cases the masks fell 30% short of the safety standard, while one type of mask was 10 years beyond its use-by date.

The public health agency RIVM has advised care home staff to wear blue surgical masks, but many institutions have bought extra FFP2 masks because they feel the surgical masks do not offer enough protection from the virus.

Michel van Erp, of NU ’91, which represents care home staff, said: ‘Staff work intensively with corona patients, day in, day out. The surgical masks prescribed by the RIVM are nothing like sufficient. It’s understandable that nursing homes buy their own FFP masks, and it’s very concerning that in many cases they score below the standard.’

The masks that scored lowest on Greencycl’s test were ordered by Talma Bolgh, a residential centre in Apeldoorn. Manager Pieter de Hoek said they had come from a source that was believed to be ‘reliable’.

‘You think you’re protecting your staff and making sure they work s safely as possible, and then the masks you’ve bought turn out to be worthless,’ he said. ‘It’s scandalous that people can be treated like this when it concerns people’s safety.’

The RIVM has recently extended Covid-19 testing to all care sector workers who suspect they have symptoms, not just those working in hospitals, and relaxed the ban that was in force on visits to care homes. From May 25 one visitor will be allowed at a time per resident, as long as they have no coronavirus-type symptoms and the 1.5 metre social distance can be maintained.

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