WHO Releases Crucial New Guidance Regarding Masks

The new information is based on a review of evolving evidence.
Loukia Papadopoulos

To wear a mask or not to wear a mask? Many have been debating this as the effectiveness of mask-wearing has been somewhat unclear.


Now the World Health Organisation has released new guidance regarding masks on its June 5 coronavirus media briefing. The information is based on a review of evolving evidence and is for health workers and the general population.

A lot still remains the same. Masks are for those who are sick. They should be worn in the extreme case that a sick person should need to go out although ideally sick people should be quarantined as well as their contacts.

In addition, home caregivers and health workers should wear masks when dealing with those affected as well as wearing other protective gear. Some things have changed, however.

Where there is a widespread transmission, the WHO advises masks for all people working in that area. Even if there are no confirmed COVID-19 patients, health workers should still wear a medical mask when visiting areas of widespread transmission.

Where there is the chance of community transmission, the WHO recommends that members of the public aged 60 and older and those with underlying conditions should wear a mask. On public transport or other areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain, the public should also wear non-medical masks.

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Finally, the organization has released new guidance on cloth masks. They now need to consist of at least three layers of different materials. They must have an absorbent inner layer, a middle layer of non-woven materials such as polypropylene, and a non-absorbent outer layer.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead, said that the recommended fabric combination "can actually provide a mechanistic barrier that if someone were infected with COVID-19, you can prevent those droplets from going through and infecting someone."

The WHO also reminded people that in some countries where social distancing is extremely difficult to maintain, using masks is even more important.

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