WHO: Public to wear face masks when unable to distance
The World Health Organization (WHO) has prepared a list of Q&As to address common concerns, with COVID-19 becoming a global health threat and the novel coronavirus spreading to every continent except Antarctica,
According to new guidance from the World Health Organization, individuals over 60 or with health issues should wear a medical-grade mask when they are out and cannot socially distance, while all others should wear fabric mask with three-layer.
The announcement on Friday marks a significant change of stance by the WHO, which until now has been reluctant to support the wearing of masks by the public because the evidence that they offer protection is of certain limits.
WHO: Public to wear face masks when unable to distance, The health body’s new guidance document says the over-60s and people with health issues should wear medical masks in “settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained” because of “high risk of infection and/or negative effects”.
All other individuals should put on a three-layer fabric mask: absorbent cotton closest to the face, followed by a polypropylene layer and then a synthetic layer which is fluid-resistant, said WHO. World Health Organisation expects that these masks can be made at home, but that small companies may begin to produce them, also providing jobs for unemployed.
The World Health Organization advised individuals to wear masks not only on buses and trains but also wherever physical distancing may be hard, for instance, in grocery stores, at work, at mass gatherings, at social gatherings, and in closed settings, including churches, mosques, schools, and other places of worship.
Until now the global body has been reluctant to support the wearing of face coverings by the public because the proof that they offer protection is not certain. There were also fears of a rush on masks leading to shortages of medical-grade versions for health workers.
The new guidance follows research commissioned by the World Health Organisation into what kind of mask could protect people in the society. It is still unknown whether individuals that put on the marks are protected, say its experts, but the new design it advocates does give protection to other people if properly used.
It was emphasised that masks are no substitute for hand hygiene and physical distancing.
Technical lead of Covid-19 response and the head of emerging diseases and zoonosis unit at WHO, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, expressed concerns about masks offering a false sense of security at protests, such as those taking place over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, US. “There are many gatherings taking place across the globe for different reasons. People who wear a homemade mask on feel a sense of protection. It is a false sense of protection,” she said.
“Masks must be part of a comprehensive strategy. They must be used with a number of measures. They do not work alone. I want to stress that anyone who’s having issue with his/her health should stay at home. They should be tested, the contact made should be identified and they should be in isolation.”
When people are out, she said, “physical distancing of at least 1 metre provides protection against the transfer of infection. The further the distance, the better, but metre at least a distant of 1m.”
The general director of World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the body’s position that masks alone would not protect people remained the same. But, he said, “in the light of proof evolving, WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to put on masks where there is widespread transmission and social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as on public transport, in shops or in either confined or crowded environments”.
The new guidance includes not only the three types of fabric that masks should be made from, but also washing instructions, he said. “People can potentially infect themselves if they use hands that are contaminated to adjust a mask or to repeatedly take it off and put it on, without cleaning the hands in between.”
WHO advises that individuals caring for somebody who is sick at home should make sure they put on a medical mask, not a fabric mask. “World Health Organisation continues to advise that individuals caring for an infected person at home shoud ensure that a medical mask is put on while they are in the same room as a sick person,” said Tedros.