Coronavirus beard alert: NHS warns over facial hair - as US chart reveals safe styles

27 February 2020, 08:09

The chart was released by the CDC agency in the US
The chart was released by the CDC agency in the US. Picture: CDC

By Ewan Somerville

Stubbles, Van Dykes and ducktails could be for the razor in NHS hospitals after guidance was sent to staff.

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

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.

“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.”

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.

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.

Read more: Government urges schools and businesses to stay open despite coronavirus

It comes as NHS staff have been warned to shave long stubbles, mutton chops, full beards and dalis to fend off the bug.

The infographic was first released in 2017 but has resurfaced as US authorities said the country's current 60 confirmed cases increasing is not "a question of if...but when".

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 mustaches can be worn if hair does not cross the filter's boundary, the chart says.

Hospital bosses have warned staff to ditch their beards
Hospital bosses have warned staff to ditch their beards. Picture: Getty

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.