World Health Organization encourages masks where physical distancing is hard

06 Juin, 2020, 21:54 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Face mask

Anyone who's honest with themselves will have to admit that the guidance and messaging around the use of face masks as the coronavirus pandemic has dragged on has been, shall we say, less than ideal.

That is the new guidance from the World Health Organization, which has changed its stance on fabric face masks.

World Health Organization had always advised that sick people and their caretakers should wear medical face masks.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the shift Friday, citing new evidence that showed face masks worn by healthy people could be "a barrier for potentially infectious droplets", the BBC reported.

Other health agencies, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have recommended for some time the wearing of masks or face coverings by the general public to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"I wish to be very clear that the guidance we are publishing today is an update of what we have been saying for months: that masks should only ever be used as part of a comprehensive strategy in the fight against COVID", Tedros said, adding, "Masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19".

"We have new research findings", said Dr Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead expert on Covid-19.

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The WHO says masks should be made of three layers - with cotton closest to the face, followed by a polypropylene layer and then a synthetic layer that is fluid-resistant.

WHO also widened its mask guidance to specify that health workers in areas where the virus is spreading freely should always wear masks inside medical facilities.

There's a bit of controversy, because the British Medical Association (which represents doctors in the UK) says the rule should be extended so it's compulsory to wear masks in all public places where social distancing isn't possible.

In its new guidance, prompted by evidence from studies conducted in recent weeks, the World Health Organization stressed that face masks were only one of a range of tools that can reduce the risk of viral transmission, and should not give a false sense of protection.

Prior to this, face masks were recommended for frontliners, people that provide care to COVID-19 patients and for those who are showing COVID-19 symptoms.

He said they were not a replacement for physical distancing and hand hygiene.

The WHO has stated that the cornerstone of the response in every country must be to find, isolate, test and care for every case, and to trace and quarantine every contact. It added that this is what they know works and it is every country's best defense against COVID-19.

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