"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."

By Ian Horswill

Posted on March 31, 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reiterated that people should not wear a face mask unless they are sick or caring for someone who is sick in the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is 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,” Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, said at a media briefing on coronavirus in Geneva on Monday.

“There also is the issue that we have a massive global shortage.

“Right now the people most at risk from this virus are frontline health workers who are exposed to the virus every second of every day. The thought of them not having masks is horrific.”

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the WHO also said at the briefing that it is important “we prioritise the use of masks for those who need it most” – frontline health care workers.

“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,” Van Kerkhove said.

“The masks that we recommend are for people who are at home and who are sick and for those individuals who are caring for those people who are home that are sick.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to safeguard the free movement of vital medicine and equipment as global health systems buckle under the pressure of tackling coronavirus.

“Ensuring free movement of essential health products is vital for saving lives and curbing the social and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Tedros.

Dow Jones, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

As infections from coronavirus COVID-19 continue to rise it is clear there is a shortage of medical supplies – masks and gloves and gowns and face shields.

In the US, where more than 3,000 people have now died, President Donald Trump said that guidelines on social distancing – encouraging people not to gather in groups of more than 10 and avoid dining out – would remain in force until the end of April, adding the guidelines could be “toughened a bit”. Trump said the US would be doing well if it can “hold” the number of deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic “down to 100,000”.

In Europe, more than 11,590 people have died in Italy, more than 7,715 have died in Spain and more than 3,020 have died in France. Myanmar had its first death – a 69-year-old man who had sought medical treatment in Australia and stopped in Singapore on his way home. He died in a Yangon hospital.

Italy has extended its lockdown measures until Easter.

Denmark is the first European country to set a timetable for the re-opening of the country after the coronavirus outbreak as Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called for a gradual easing of restrictions after Easter.

“If we Danes for the next two weeks — beyond Easter — continue to stand together, at a distance, and if the numbers remain stable and reasonable, then the government will begin a gradual, quiet and controlled opening of our society again,” she said.