After months of uncertainty, the WHO recommends that people should wear face masks when unable to social distance.
Rabat – The World Health Organization (WHO) has shifted its stance on the wearing of face masks. On Friday, the UN health organization recommended that all people should be advised to wear masks at times when they are not able to social distance.
While the WHO previously limited advising wearing face masks to healthcare workers and caregivers, their latest statement suggests that people over 60 or with pre-existing health issues should wear a medical-grade mask, while all others are advised to wear a three-layer fabric mask.
The guidance comes after months of the WHO expressing uncertainty around the level of protection of face masks and their ability to prevent the spread of viruses such as COVID-19. WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the effectiveness of wearing masks is still not supported by high quality scientific research.
According to Ghebreyesus, the WHO is making its latest recommendations based upon a growing amount of observational evidence and concerns over the challenges of social distancing and thus, an “increased risk of infection and/or negative outcomes.”
The director general emphasized that masks on their own are not enough to curb the spread of infection, adding that hand-washing and social distancing are of equal importance.
Health workers have also been advised to up their precautions and should now wear medical-grade masks at all times in healthcare facilities, rather than limiting their wear to areas with patients.
Since the onset of the novel coronavirus, governments worldwide have looked to the WHO for guidance and support, seeking answers as to how they should best battle the pandemic. Still, many countries have swayed from their recent recommendations under rapid economic downturns and are questioning the organization’s readiness to heed advice from now retracted research studies that withheld critical data and lacked peer review.
Still, as much of the world leans into the promise of eased lockdowns and hopes of resuming gatherings, work, and the many human interactions that were once taken for granted, the WHO’s announcement is likely to normalize our facially-protected public appearance for quite some time to come.