Since December 2020
WHO HEALTH ORGANIZATION
All about masks in the context of COVID-19
Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives; the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19.
If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue. Check local advice where you live and work. Do it all!
Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people. The appropriate use, storage and cleaning or disposal of masks are essential to make them as effective as possible.
6 June 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) has changed its advice on face masks, saying they should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
The global body said new information showed they could provide “a barrier for potentially infectious droplets”.
Some countries already recommend or mandate face coverings in public.
The WHO had previously argued there was not enough evidence to say that healthy people should wear masks.
However, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that “in light of evolving evidence, the 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”.
The organisation had always advised that medical face masks should be worn by people who are sick and by those caring for them.
Big shift in guidance
This is a big shift in the WHO’s guidance on when the public should cover their faces. For months, the organisation’s experts stuck to the line that masks would encourage a false sense of security and would deprive medical professionals of badly needed protective equipment.
Those arguments have not gone away but at the same time the WHO acknowledges that new evidence has emerged on the risks of transmission.
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.
So where distancing is not possible, such as on public transport and in locations as varied as shops and refugee camps, it is suggested that faces are covered with homemade masks to avoid passing on the infection.
Over 60s with underlying health conditions should go further, the WHO said, and wear medical-grade masks to give themselves better protection.
Back in April 2020
WHO says there is no need for healthy people to wear face masks, days after the CDC told all Americans to cover their faces
Apr 8, 2020, 2:43 AM
On April 6, the World Health Organization released new guidance saying that healthy people don’t need to wear face masks to prevent coronavirus spread.
Masks should be for the sick, their caretakers, and healthcare workers, the WHO guidance said.
Scientists and public-health organizations can’t agree on the best face-mask protocol, and the WHO guidelines go against the CDC’s face-mask recommendations.
WHO stands by recommendation to not wear masks if you are not sick or not caring for someone who is sick
By Jacqueline Howard, CNN
Updated 0624 GMT (1424 HKT) March 31, 2020
“There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, said at a media briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday.
“There also is the issue that we have a massive global shortage,” Ryan said about masks and other medical supplies. “Right now the people most at risk from this virus are frontline health workers who are exposed to the virus every second of every day. The thought of them not having masks is horrific.”
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the WHO, also said at Monday’s briefing that it is important “we prioritize the use of masks for those who need it most,” which would be frontline health care workers.”In the community, we do not recommend the use of wearing masks unless you yourself are sick and as a measure to prevent onward spread from you if you are ill,” Van Kerkhove said. “The masks that we recommend are for people who are at home and who are sick and for those individuals who are caring for those people who are home that are sick,” she said.
World Health Organization officials warned at a media briefing last week that globally there is a “significant shortage” of medical supplies, including personal protective gear or PPE, for doctors.”We need to be clear,” Van Kerkhove said last week. “The world is facing a significant shortage of PPE for our frontline workers — including masks and gloves and gowns and face shields — and protecting our health care workers must be the top priority for use of this PPE.”