WHO Update on Wearing Non-Medical Face Masks

As of Friday, June 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new guidelines for face masks, suggesting that they may be used in more situations than previously recommended. Until now, WHO had not provided any guidance for or against the use of non-medical masks, saying there was not enough scientific evidence to determine if they were helpful. WHO has said that the change in advice was “based on evolving evidence.”

• Anyone living in an area where virus transmission is widespread should be encouraged to wear a non-medical mask when they are in a situation where physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transit, in stores, at places of worship and other mass gatherings

• A study recently found that homemade cloth masks may help provide a "modest reduction in transmission."

Advantages of non-medical masks:

• Reduce the risk of asymptomatic carriers spreading the virus

• Remind the population that the pandemic is ongoing, and we can all play a role in stopping it

• Stimulating economic activity – encourages the public to create their own fabric masks

Disadvantages of non-medical masks:

• Risk of self-contamination from touching the mask too much or not cleaning enough

• Potential for headaches, breathing difficulties or skin irritations

• Creating a false sense of security – these masks are not fully protective against the virus

Key Reminder: Masks are not a replacement for hand hygiene, physical distancing, and other public health measures. To read more about these updates from the WHO, please click here.


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