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WHO recommends wearing masks in public, in updated guidelines

Coronavirus outbreak: WHO recommends wearing non-medical masks in public
Experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) outlined the reasoning for updated guidance from the organization on Friday that everyone wear a fabric or non-medical mask in public areas where there is a risk of transmission, which Dr. Maria Van Kherkove said should contain three layers, including an absorbent inner layer, a filter and a non-absorbent outer layer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its guidance on Friday to recommend that governments ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public areas where there is a risk of transmission of COVID-19 to help reduce the spread of the pandemic disease.

In its new guidance, prompted by evidence from studies conducted in recent weeks, the WHO stressed that face masks were only one of a range of tools that can reduce the risk of viral transmission, and should not give a false sense of protection.

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“We are advising governments to encourage that the general public wear a mask. And we specify a fabric mask – that is, a non-medical mask,” the WHO’s technical lead expert on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, told Reuters in an interview.

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“We have new research findings,” she added. “We have evidence now that if this is done properly, it can provide a barrier … for potentially infectious droplets.”

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While some countries and U.S. states have recommended or mandated the wearing of face coverings in public, the WHO had previously said there was not enough evidence for or against the use of masks for healthy people in the wider community. It had always recommended that medical masks be worn by people who are sick and by those caring for them.

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The U.N. agency’s advice that all health-care workers dealing with COVID-19 patients, or with suspected cases of the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, should wear medical masks remains the same, Van Kerkhove said.

But the advice has been broadened to recommend staff coming into contact with any patients or residents in clinics, hospitals, care homes and long-term residential facilities should also wear masks at all times, she said.