Wear masks in public, says World Health Organization in new coronavirus advice

Wear masks in public, says World Health Organization in new coronavirus advice

Wear masks in public, says World Health Organization in new coronavirus advice

The World Health Organization has updated its guidance to recommend that governments ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public areas where there is a risk of transmission of COVID-19 to help reduce the spread of the pandemic disease.

The WHO has been reluctant to commit to recommending face coverings, firstly because the evidence on whether they offer any protection to the public is limited and - more importantly - because it was afraid it would lead to shortages of medical-grade masks for health workers. And we specified a cloth mask, that is, a non-medical mask, "said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO chief technical expert at COVID-19".

- Everyone in public settings such as stores, at work, social or mass gatherings, and in closed settings such as schools or places of worship.

According to WHO's latest media briefing on COVID-19, all people working in clinical areas of a health facility including those that are not dealing with COVID-19 patients are advised to wear medical masks.

Everyone else should use what it terms non-medical or fabric masks.

- Avoid stretchy materials, because stretching may increase pore sizes, and preferably use a fabric that can be washed at 60 degree C (140F) or higher.

The inner layer should be made of a water-absorbent material such as cotton, the middle layer - which acts as a filter - from a material like non-woven polypropylene, while the outer layer should be a water-resistant material such as polyester.

- Wash frequently, at the highest temperature possible, and don't share.

Meanwhile, wearing masks in crowded places was far from uncommon in parts of Asia even before the coronavirus pandemic struck, especially if people were ill.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said people over age 60 or with underlying medical conditions also should wear masks in situations where social distancing can not be maintained.

It points to recent research that people can be highly infectious in the few days before they show symptoms and that some people catch the virus but never show symptoms at all, as I reported last weekend. The guidance, she emphasised, is based on "new, novel research" commissioned by the WHO.

The organization now says that, when social distancing isn't possible outside the home, all of us should be wearing a face mask in public.

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

Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, listed new precautions on Friday at virtual news conference.

Ghebreyesus urged governments to encourage the general public "to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult".

"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", Tedros stressed.

With a fabric mask, "right now we only know that it provides a certain level of barrier, but we don't know if that's enough to prevent", Baller said.

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