A facemask prototype that could help prevent the spread of coronavirus is being developed in a partnership involving University of the West of Scotland (UWS) academics.

The product – Face Gaiter – has been created by fabric architecture firm, tensARC, who have turned their attention to face coverings for use by members of the public, particularly in work environments where social distancing is more difficult, without interfering with supplies of PPE for frontline workers.

The project, which has been awarded funding from the Scottish Funding Council, will see researchers from UWS’s School of Health and Life Sciences validate the Face Gaiter’s effectiveness in preventing transmission of the virus at the University’s dedicated microbiology facilities.

It comes as the Scottish and UK Governments both recently suggested there may be benefits in wearing a face covering when lockdown measures are gradually eased, particularly for those going back to work.

Successful trials will see the company roll out the Face Gaiter, which the SME hopes will play a role in reducing the reproductive number of coronavirus due to its special design.

The University of Stirling’s Health Sciences and Sport faculty is also involved in the project to assess user comfort and safety.

Professor Fiona Henriquez, Research Lead for the School of Health and Life Sciences at UWS, is an expert in infectious disease. She said: “Being able to support tensARC in its endeavour to develop the Face Gaiter is really important and, at UWS, we have the capabilities to perform crucial testing to ensure that the product is effective. We are proud to be able to contribute to finding solutions to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other pathogens.”

Paul Baglin, Director of tensARC, which specialises in the design of tensile fabric structures, said: “To protect each other during an epidemic, the public needs an alternative to medical masks for work settings and when social distancing is not achievable. We designed a fabric face covering that is fit-for-purpose and lets the wearer breathe normally with much less chance of infecting others.

“Created specifically for source control within work environments, it’s an easy-to-wear, washable and effective face covering that can be part of a lockdown exit plan. The study with University of the West of Scotland will rate fabrics, sealing, and other factors, and UWS’s expertise is key to understanding which designs best trap pathogens.”

By Ricky Kelly

Main writer for Renfrewshire News