- Face masks only one of the tools that reduces the risk of COVID-19: WHO
- General public wear can wear a fabric mask: WHO
- Healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients should wear N95 masks: WHO
New Delhi: “I cannot say this clearly enough: masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19,” asserted World Health Organisation (WHO) Chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media address where he announced updated guidelines on the usage of masks to avoid COVID-19. The revision is prompted by the evidence from studies conducted in recent weeks, WHO said. In the fresh set of guidelines, the organisation recommends that governments should ask everyone to wear face masks where there is a ‘widespread transmission and maintaining physical distancing is difficult.’
The WHO further stressed that face masks are only one of the tools that can reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, and ‘should not give a false sense of protection.’ The WHO chief further said,
In light of evolving evidence, WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments.
Furthermore, WHO suggests that people over 60 and those in high-risk groups, should wear N95 masks, in cases where social distancing isn’t possible. However, the fact that masks may themselves introduce risk factors, like fomites present in the mask as well as the mindset that those who are wearing make need not maintain social distance or hand hygiene – remains a concern. Mr Tedros explained,
Our guidance also explains how to use a mask safely. People can potentially infect themselves if they use contaminated hands to adjust a mask, or to repeatedly take it off and put it on, without cleaning hands in between. Masks can also create a false sense of security, leading people to neglect measures such as hand hygiene and physical distancing.
The WHO further pushed for the usage of non-medical masks, that are three-layered for the general public. WHO’s Technical lead expert on Covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, explained,
We are advising governments to encourage that the general public wear a mask. And we specify a fabric mask – that is, a non-medical mask. We have evidence now that if this used properly, it can provide a barrier against the COVID-19 droplets.
The UN agency’s advice that all healthcare workers dealing with COVID-19 patients, or with suspected cases of the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, should wear medical masks remains the same, Ms Van Kerkhove said. However, the revised guidelines also advice that the staff coming into contact with any patients or residents in clinics, hospitals, care homes and long-term residential facilities should also wear masks at all times.