Scientists and experts reckon it’s time to ditch the cloth masks you’ve been rocking and try out more industrial P2s and N95s, which they reckon should be available for free. So, what exactly is the difference between them?

This might come as a shock to you, but cloth masks don’t work as well as the average person may think. Which is a shame because they’re probably what you would consider to be a “conscious consumer” choice. Plus, they can look pretty great too.

Essentially, droplets which leave your mouth can be really, really tiny. The gaps in the material of a cloth mask can’t effectively stop them. And of course, the fit is fairly loose even if you have the nifty little nose-bridge-wire, which allows droplets to escape out the sides.

Still following? Great. This also makes the blue surgical masks a bit iffy too. They stop some droplets but their loose fit isn’t ideal.

Which is where the industrial bois come in. They’re designed to stop nasty things like paint and asbestos getting into your lungs. They have a tight seal around the mouth and prevent some of those tiny particles from passing through, either on the way in or out. Awesome!

The Age’s health editor Aisha Dow wrote a handy report outlining the issue, and she also spoke to some experts who want to see them made free to help curb Omicron’s spread.

Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists president Kate Cole laid on the “make thing necessitated by health measures free ” thick when speaking to Dow.

“There are so many things that me and other professionals that work in this space are completely dumbfounded about in our nation’s response to this pandemic. This is just another one,” she said.

We’re all thinking it, Cole just said it.

“While [cloth masks] might stop really large droplets potentially being inhaled or exhaled, we know that we generate aerosols that are incredibly small (they can be less than five microns) and so aerosols that small will likely not be trapped in a cloth mask efficiently,” she said.

Air-quality scientist Professor Lidia Morawska and Cole told the paper the masks were needed and should be free.

Another expert, Occupational physician Malcolm Sim, also told Dow that tight fitting masks were needed but didn’t go as far as saying they should be free.

Hey, since everyone wants free rapid antigens tests, why not just add some masks to the tab? Get on it Scott Morrison, you mean old bastard.