Months after it declared the novel coronavirus a global health emergency and several reputed studies confirmed the virus’s airborne transmission, the World Health Organization has finally issued its ‘new guidance’ on the use of face masks. And it basically urges everyone to wear one.
‘Today, the WHO is publishing updated guidance on the use of masks for control of Covid-19,” said Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, chief of the UN health body that has been dubbing the use of face masks by the general public as needless since the pandemic’s beginning; only those caring for or working around the infected were recommended to wear one.
FACT: #COVID19 is NOT airborne.
The #coronavirus is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.
To protect yourself:
-keep 1m distance from others
-disinfect surfaces frequently
-wash/rub your ?
-avoid touching your ??? pic.twitter.com/fpkcpHAJx7
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 28, 2020
Now, after months of refusal to classify the disease as airborne in spite of mounting evidence, WHO is having a change of mind.
“Here’s what’s new: 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,” said Tedros.
“Second, in areas with community transmission, we advise that people aged 60 or over, or those with underlying conditions, should wear a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible,” he added.
“Third, the WHO has also updated its guidance on the use of masks by the general public in areas with community transmission,” Tedros said. He also stressed that the governments should encourage the general public to wear masks “where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult.”
The tedious guidance could have been simpler: everybody must wear a mask. And it could have come much earlier, not after many countries are past their virus peaks and have seen millions of infections and thousands of deaths.
WHO’s mask guidance has come at a time when almost every country has already made it mandatory to use masks in public spaces. The UN health agency has been in hot waters lately for its slow response to and handling of the pandemic, with President Trump announcing to cut off US payments, and more recently, threatening to sever ties with it.
While other governments have declared continuation of their support to WHO amid the outbreak, the public looks largely frustrated with and critical of the way it has been managing the Covid-19 crisis, expressing their anger frequently through social media platforms.
But the WHO has not been alone in spreading the mask-related confusion.
US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams had also asked people to stop buying masks. “Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS!” he said in a Feb 29 tweet. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!,” he continued.
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
The same message was relayed by an infection prevention specialist Eli Perencevich, who even hinted at masks carrying a greater risk of infecting people if worn incorrectly. Meaning that if you wore a mask, your chances of getting the virus actually increased instead of decreasing.
Based on these advisories by the local and international health experts, ProPakistani also asked its readers to stop their mask frenzy. But with growing evidence of the virus’s airborne status, we recommended that people should start wearing the masks while experts continued to lock horns over coronavirus’s airborne status.
Besides the mask guidance, WHO has also warned that just wearing a mask does not guarantee complete protection against Covid-19. “Masks are not a replacement for physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other public health measures,” Tedors stressed.
He added that WHO will continue to provide the world with advice based on the “most up-to-date evidence”, as part of its commitment to serving the world with “science, solutions, and solidarity.”