THE World Health Organization (WHO) has changed its advice on face masks, saying that they should be worn in public in order to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The health body said new information has come to light suggesting that face masks could provide ‘a barrier for potentially infectious droplets.’
It had previously argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that if healthy people wore a face mask, that would combat the spread of the virus.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead expert on COVID-19, told Reuters that the recommendation was for people to wear a ‘fabric mask, that is a non-medical mask’ in areas where there is a risk of transmitting the disease.
The organisation has always maintained the notion that medical masks should be worn by people who are sick and those who care for them.
Over 60s with underlying health conditions should go further, and wear medical-grade masks to give themselves better protection, the WHO has said.
“We are advising governments to encourage the general public to wear a mask,” Dr Van Kerkhove added.
The WHO also reminded people that face masks are only one of the tools needed to combat the pandemic and that they shouldn’t give people a false sense of protection.
“Masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Criticism has been made of the lateness that the WHO has come to this decision, with many countries already having introduced rules regarding face masks.
On May 20, Spain made it mandatory for people to wear face masks in closed spaces and on the street when the two metre guideline could not be kept.
This came as from May 4, masks had also been made compulsory on public transport.
Face masks will still be mandatory following the end of the de-escalation process, with fines of up to €100 being issued to those who don’t wear one in closed spaces during the ‘new normal.’
The UK has also followed suit, with people having to wear face masks on public transport from June 15, along with all NHS staff, even if they aren’t in a clinical setting.
This comes as the WHO warned that the coronavirus may never go away.