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Updated WHO guidance on the use of Face Masks – What’s New

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“Are fabric face masks effective in protecting myself from COVID-19?”

“Should I wear a mask if I don’t have the virus?”

“How do I know the right mask to wear?”

These are only a few of the numerous questions commonly asked by people since the use of face masks became an essential part of our everyday lives, in order to control and slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Based on new research and discoveries, the World Health Organization (WHO), announced updated guidelines on the use of face masks for the prevention or management of COVID-19, which helps answer some these commonly asked questions.

  "Masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19."  -  WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
 “Masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19.” – WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“Today, WHO is publishing updated guidance on the use of masks for control of covid-19,” said the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a press briefing on Friday, June 5th, 2020.

Here’s What’s New:

  • In areas with widespread transmission, WHO advises medical masks for all people working in clinical areas of health facilities, not only workers dealing with COVID-19 patients
  • In areas with community transmission, people aged 60 years and above, or with underlying health conditions should wear medical face masks when physical distancing is not possible
  • WHO has also updated its guidance on the use of medical face masks by the general public. Dr. Tedros advised that governments instruct people to wear medical face masks in areas where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops, or in other confined or crowded environments.
  • Based on academic research requested by WHO, the health body has also provided new information on the composition of fabric masks. WHO recommends that fabric face masks should consist of at least 3 different layers of material – an inner layer being an absorbent material like cotton, a middle layer of non-woven materials such as polypropylene (for the filter) and an outer layer, which is a non-absorbent material such as a polyester or a polyester blend.

Dr. Tedros also went on to add that “masks are not a replacement for physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other public health measures.” It is possible for people to infect themselves by using unsanitized hands to repeatedly take off and put on face masks.

Prevention of COVID-19 is a 360-degree effort, and while the use of masks is an important part, doing so in isolation could still leave you susceptible to infection.