With Omicron now well and truly in the community, wearing a mask is more important than ever, but not all face coverings are created equal.
The best of the best is the N95 or KN95 respirator mask which provides 95 per cent protection from airborne particles.
They’re made out of a polypropylene material so what this does it traps the particles not only with the material itself, but it holds a static charge where it can cling on to some of these material particles floating by,” Dr Joel Rindelaub, a Research Fellow at the Auckland University’s School of Chemical Sciences said.
But there's a warning for KN95s. Over half on the market may be fake, "so be careful when trying to purchase this product,” Rindelaub said.
The next best, and offering the same level of protection is the KF mask. It's also made from polypropylene but loops around the ears.
Both the N95 and KF masks can be reused if you have a few and rotate their use.
Disposable surgical coverings are recommended by the Health Ministry and provide 90 per cent protection.
“Even though it does look thin there are three layers to it, an inside layer that’s absorbent, an outside layer that repels water and then an internal layer that’s kind of like that same polypropylene in those N95 masks,” Rindelaub said.
As for a single layer cloth mask, well it's time to ditch those.
“It’s not really going to filter out a lot of the aerosols in the air because it’s not made with the same materials as these other mask varieties,” Rindelaub said.
No matter which mask you’re wearing, it’s only effective if it’s well fitted. If there are gaps along the nose or the sides it won’t offer as much protection.