WHO now says everyone should wear face masks in public

  • 1 month ago
WHO now says everyone should wear face masks in public

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

In its new guidance, prompted by evidence from studies conducted in recent weeks, the WHO 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.

The organisation’s chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 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”.

Additionally, the new advice by WHO suggested that people over 60, as well as those in high-risk groups, should wear medical grade masks in cases where social distancing isn't possible.

However concern remains that masks may themselves introduce risk factors – including making people feel less inclined to continue other measures like social distancing and hand washing.

Mr Tedros added: “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.


“I cannot say this clearly enough: masks alone will not protect you from Covid-19.”

The announcement comes just a day after the UK government announced it would be making face coverings mandatory on public transport following months of claims the science was not clear on their effectiveness.

“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,” the WHO’s technical lead expert on Covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, added. “We have evidence now that if this is done properly it can provide a barrier... for potentially infectious 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, now that advice has been broadened to suggest 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.


Additional reporting by Reuters.