UNITED NATIONS, Jun 06 (APP):The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised governments around the world to encourage their people to wear masks in regions where physical distancing is difficult, as a way of curbing further spread of coronavirus.
“WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is a widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments,” Tedros Adhanom, the WHO Director-General, told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.
Tedros warned that while masks help protect people from contracting the virus, they can also be an avenue for infection if not handled properly.
He urged against using contaminated hands to adjust or repeatedly taking off masks and wearing them again.
“Masks can also create a false sense of security, leading people to neglect measures such as hand hygiene and physical distancing,” he said.
“I cannot say this clearly enough: masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19.”
In his briefing, Tedros also noted that people aged 60 years and above, as well as those with underlying conditions, should wear a medical mask in situations where it is difficult to observe physical distancing.
WHO issued the updated guidance following a review of available evidence and extensive consultation with international experts and civil society groups.
It contains new information on the composition of fabric masks and other face coverings, based on research commissioned by the UN agency.
Masks can be purchased or homemade, and should contain three layers: ideally a cotton lining, a polyester outer layer, and a middle “filter” made of polypropylene, or some other non-woven material.
“With those three layers, and in that combination, that fabric can actually provide a mechanistic barrier that if someone were infected with COVID-19, it could prevent those droplets going through and infecting someone else”, Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist said.
WHO continues to recommend that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should stay home and seek medical help.
People caring for them should wear a medical mask when they are both in the same room.
“If it is absolutely necessary for a sick person or a contact to leave the house, they should wear a medical mask,” said Tedros.
Meanwhile, confirmed COVID-19 patients should still be isolated and cared for in a health setting, while all their contacts should be quarantined.
The Director-General’s briefing came as the world’s COVID-19 infections went beyond 6.6 million and deaths surpassed 392,000, according to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.