GENEVA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday reiterated its advice to people to not wear face masks if they were either not infected by the coronavirus or not caring for a COVID-19 patient.
In a media briefing, the WHO emergencies program executive director Dr Mike Ryan said there was “no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit”.
“In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly,” he added. “There also is the issue that we have a massive global shortage.”
Dr Ryan, a former trauma surgeon who has worked very closely with patients during Ebola outbreaks, stressed that people most at risk were those working at the frontline.
“Frontline health workers […] are exposed to the virus every second of every day. The thought of them not having masks is horrific,” he added.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove — an infectious disease expert and the WHO top official’s colleague — echoed Dr Ryan’s comments, saying it was crucial to “prioritize the use of masks for those who need it most”.
“In the community, we do not recommend the use of wearing masks unless you yourself are sick and as a measure to prevent onward spread from you if you are ill,” Dr Van Kerkhove noted, adding that masks were only suggested for those who were sick and in self-quarantine or those living with coronavirus-positive patients and caring for them.
Last week, she had emphasised on the dearth of medical gear for healthcare professionals.
“The world is facing a significant shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our frontline workers — including masks and gloves and gowns and face shields — and protecting our health care workers must be the top priority for use of this PPE.”