Coronavirus beard alert: NHS warns over facial hair as chart reveals which styles are safe

27 February 2020, 08:57 | Updated: 28 February 2020, 14:18

This US chart shows which beard styles may put you at risk
This US chart shows which beard styles may put you at risk. Picture: CDC

An NHS hospital has told staff to shave off full beards in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus.

Bosses at Southampton General Hospital have told workers to get rid of full beards and instead stick to a 'zappa' or be clean shaven to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Sun reported that a memo sent to NHS staff at the hospital read: “You will see that the presence of facial hair compromises the ability to protect any individual through a mask.

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“I am writing to ask those who do not have a strong cultural or religious reason for a beard and who are working in at risk areas to consider shaving.

“I recognise for some this is a big ask, that beards are so popular at present. However I do believe this is the right thing to do.”

Read more: why facemasks won't protect you from coronavirus

The Health and Safety Executive website explains that facial hair "makes it impossible" for a mask to properly protect the lungs from dirty air.

The news emerged after the US re-issued guidelines on facial hair to health officials preparing for coronavirus.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a chart showing the facial hair styles that could reduce the effectiveness of face masks.

A bearded man in Italy wears a facemask
A bearded man in Italy wears a facemask. Picture: PA

It says that clean shaven is the safest surface for a respirator, and warns against full beards, short or long stubble, or a fu manchu.

It lists 36 different men's facial hairstyles, with only 12 deemed to not interfere with masks: clean shaven, soul patch, side whiskers, pencil, toothbrush, lampshade, Zorro, Zappa, walrus, painter's brush, Chevron and a handlebar.

The CDC says more bearded styles can stop the mask forming a tight seal over the face.

Other styles, including goatees, horseshoes and villain moustaches can be worn if hair does not cross the filter's boundary, the chart says.

Protective masks are being used in towns and cities nationwide as the number of cases globally passed 80,000, leaving every continent bar Antarctica stricken.

In Britain, Public Health England is set to launch an awareness campaign on social media and broadcasters - including orders to wash hands for 20 seconds and only sneeze into tissues - to stop the virus count going up.