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COVID-19: WHO releases updated guidance on use of masks

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published updated guidance on the use of masks for control of COVID-19.

The Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said this at a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva on Friday.

Ghebreyesus said that the guidance was based on evolving evidence and provided updated advice on who should wear a mask, when it should be worn and what it should be made of.

“WHO has developed this guidance through a careful review of all available evidence, and extensive consultation with international experts and civil society groups.

“I wish to be very clear that the guidance we are publishing today is an update of what we have been saying for months: that masks should only ever be used as part of a comprehensive strategy in the fight against COVID-19.

“Masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19,’’ he said.

According to him, the following have not changed in the guidance.

“WHO continues to recommend that people who are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 should remain at home and should consult their health care provider.

“People confirmed to have COVID-19 should be isolated and cared for in a health facility and their contacts should be quarantined.

“If it is absolutely necessary for a sick person or a contact to leave the house, they should wear a medical mask.

“WHO continues to advise that people caring for an infected person at home should wear a medical mask while they are in the same room as the sick person.

“And WHO continues to advise that health workers use medical masks and other protective equipment when dealing with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.’’

The director-general, however, said the following things are new in the guidance.

“In areas with widespread transmission, WHO advises medical masks for all people working in clinical areas of a health facility, not only workers dealing with patients with COVID-19.

“That means, for example, that when a doctor is doing a ward round on the cardiology or palliative care units where there are no confirmed COVID-19 patients, they should still wear a medical mask.

“Secondly, in areas with community transmission, we advise that people aged 60 years or over, or those with underlying conditions, should wear a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible.

“Third, WHO has also updated its guidance on the use of masks by the general public in areas with community transmission.

“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.’’

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