Single-layer masks are going out of fashion in Indonesia after officials point to vulnerability

After KRL Commuterline advised passengers to stop wearing single-layer face masks on board the train, the Indonesian government has gone one further by recommending that they should be avoided for general day-to-day use due to their ineffectiveness.

Related — KRL Commuterline passengers urged to avoid single-layer face masks, neck gaiters

Backing up KRL Commuterline’s advisory, the COVID-19 task force yesterday recommended against the everyday use of “scuba masks” — tight-fitting face coverings comprising a single layer of synthetic fabric — and “buff masks” aka neck gaiters, which, according to a study by the task force, are only 0-5 percent effective in protecting the wearer from coronavirus transmission.

“Scuba masks or buff masks consist of just one layer that is too thin, so the probability for [virus particles] to penetrate is high,” task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said during an online press conference yesterday afternoon.

Wiku added that scuba masks, in particular, are often pulled down to the chin, which defeats the overall purpose of face covering.

By comparison, cloth face masks, which usually consist of three layers of fabric, have a 50-70 percent effectiveness rate so they should be safe for everyday use. Surgical masks and N95 masks are even more effective, but the public should be mindful of any possible shortages for healthcare providers.

Yet, all this talk about which masks are effective and which are not is practically pointless if many still don’t consider masks essential when out and about. In Jakarta alone on Monday, the first day of the capital’s return to strict restrictions, authorities caught over 3,000 people not wearing masks.

A progressive fine of up to IDR1 million (US$67.47) or community service for up to four hours apply for face mask violators in Jakarta.

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