WHO Changes Face Mask Guidance: When & Where To Use Masks

Updated advice on the use of masks in communities

The World Health Organisation has updated its guidance on the use of masks in areas that have reported cases of COVID-19. WHO recommends that governments encourage its citizens to wear fabric face masks in public places to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Studies of influenza, influenza-like illness, and human coronaviruses (not including COVID-19) provide evidence that the use of a medical mask can prevent the spread of infectious droplets from a symptomatic infected person (source control) to someone else and potential contamination of the environment by these droplets – World Health Organization

The WHO says a growing amount of observational evidence suggests that face masks can protect healthy individuals from getting infected, especially in such settings where physical distancing cannot be achieved.

A recent meta-analysis of these observational studies, with the intrinsic biases of observational data, showed that either disposable surgical masks or reusable 12–16-layer cotton masks were associated with protection of healthy individuals within households and among contacts of cases – World Health Organization

When Should You Wear A Mask?

Situations/settingsPopulationPurpose of mask useType of mask to consider wearing if recommended locally
Areas with known or suspected widespread transmission and limited or no capacity to implement other containment measures such as physical distancing, contact tracing, appropriate testing, isolation and care for suspected and confirmed cases.General population in public settings, such as grocery stores, at work, social gatherings, mass gatherings, closed settings, including schools, churches, mosques, etc.Potential benefit for source controlNon-medical mask
Settings with high population density where physical distancing cannot be achieved; surveillance and testing capacity, and isolation and quarantine facilities are limitedPeople living in cramped conditions, and specific settings such as refugee camps, camp-like settings, slumsPotential benefit for source controlNon-medical mask
Settings where a physical distancing cannot be achieved (close contact)General public on transportation (e.g., on a bus, plane, trains) Specific working conditions which places the employee in close contact or potential close contact with others e.g., social workers, cashiers, serversPotential benefit for source controlNon-medical mask
Settings where physical distancing cannot be achieved and increased risk of infection and/or negative outcomesVulnerable populations: People aged ≥60 years People with underlying comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, immunosuppressionProtectionMedical mask
Any setting in the community*Persons with any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19Source controlMedical mask

Visit Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19 for more information.

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