WHO advises to wear face masks in public areas

WHO advises to wear face masks in public areas
The WHO had previously said there was not enough evidence to say that healthy people should wear masks. Source: Reuters
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Daily US Times: The World Health Organization (WHO) has changed its advice on face masks, asking people to wear them in public to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The organization has previously argued there was not enough evidence to say that healthy people should wear masks.

New information showed they could provide “a barrier for potentially infectious droplets”, WHO said.

Some countries already recommend or mandate the wearing of face masks in public.

WHO’s technical lead expert on Covid-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove told that the recommendation was for people to wear a “fabric mask – that is, a non-medical mask” in areas where there is a risk of transmission of the disease.

The global body had always advised that medical face masks should be worn by people who are sick and those caring for them.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, there have been 6.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 400,000 deaths since the outbreak began late last year.

What is WHO’s advice about face masks?

WHO says its new changed guidelines had been prompted by studies over recent weeks.

Dr Van Kerkhove said: “We are advising governments to encourage that the general public wear a mask.”

WHO also stressed at the same time that face masks were just one of a range of tools that could be used to reduce the risk of transmission – and that they should not give people a false sense of protection.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Masks on their own will not protect you from Covid-19.”

What are the latest key developments globally?

On Friday, the UK government announced that hospital visitors and out-patients would be required to wear face coverings. The government also announced that hospital staff would have to wear medical masks, even if they were not in a clinical setting.

The guidance will come into force on 15 June, as pupils return to school and more businesses open up.

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro threatened to pull the country out of the WHO unless it ceases to be a “partisan political organization”. Initially, the President dismissed the virus as a “little flu”. He also has been critical of the lockdown policies recommended by the WHO to stop the spread of the disease.

The Brazilian government has stopped releasing the total number of fatalities and infections, reporting only the rise in 24 hours.

The change has fuelled long-running criticism that the government is attempting to hide information as the crisis escalates.

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