People in Northern Ireland should wear face coverings to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, a team of experts has said.
Professor Sian Griffiths, who co-chaired the Hong Kong government's inquiry into the 2003 SARS outbreak, made the recommendation at the Stormont health committee during the week.
She was one of a panel of global experts in public health invited to give their assessment on the Covid-19 pandemic and was asked whether people should be encouraged to wear face masks. "I think they may contribute to protecting other people who come into close contact with you," said Prof Griffiths.
"In general, there is a recommendation to wear face coverings that can be cloth and can be washed at 60 degrees.
"Mask wearing in Asia is absolutely common for anyone who has an upper respiratory infection."
Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he agreed with Prof Griffiths as they interrupt the flow of droplets.
However, he said it is important that people use simple fabric to cover their faces. "No one is talking about taking surgical masks from health and social care workers," he added.
There has been concern that people using face coverings when out and about will result in shortages of personal protective equipment for healthcare staff.
But earlier this month, Health Minister Robin Swann recommended that the public use face coverings while shopping, such as at supermarkets, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The UUP MLA said the measure is not compulsory and has stressed that the use of face coverings by members of the public will in no way reduce the need for social distancing or regular handwashing.