UK task force studies reuse of medical respirator masks

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Practice already widespread in US and recently approved in Canada and Norway

NHS workers wearing protective face masks. People close to the task force say the study is not a response to an imminent mask shortage © PETER POWELL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The UK government has formed a task force to examine reusing medical respirator masks, including decontamination methods that would enable single-use masks to be safely worn many times.
The cross-agency task force includes the NHS, the Health and Safety Executive, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the public health agencies of all four UK nations, according to people involved in the research.
Reusing respirator masks after decontamination is already a widespread practice in the US, which has experienced severe shortages of N95 masks, and it was recently approved in Canada and Norway.
The UK task force, which has been under way since late March, is expected to issue guidance on how to safely reuse medical respirator masks, if necessary. Several people close to the group said it was not a response to an imminent mask shortage.
“This is part of the worst-case scenario planning,” said Dr David Farren, an infection control specialist and member of the British Medical Association Consultants Committee.

Authors: Leslie Hook and Sarah Neville

Date: 14/05/2020