Should we wear masks or not? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 03, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:55 AM, April 03, 2020

Should we wear masks or not?

WHO expert panel expected to recommend the protective gear for public

Should more of us wear face masks to help slow the spread of coronavirus?

Reports said a panel of the World Health Organization will be meeting in coming days to reconsider its decision to tell healthy people not to wear face masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study found that coughs and sneezes can spread virus particles up to 27ft (8m) raising questions about the current safety precautions put forwarded by health experts including WHO.

The WHO currently does not recommend that people without the illness wear face masks because there is little evidence they help and they would be better used by healthcare workers and patients who test positive.

The WHO recommends keeping a distance of at least 1m from anyone coughing or sneezing to avoid the risk of infection. It advises that healthy people only need to wear them if they are caring for others suspected of being infected or if they themselves are coughing or sneezing.

The UK, along with other countries including the US, advises that social distancing should mean staying at least 2m apart. This advice is based on evidence showing that viruses can only be transmitted while carried within drops of liquid.

The understanding is that most of those drops will either evaporate or fall to the ground near to the person who released them.

According to Prof David Heymann, head of WHO's Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Infectious Hazards advisory panel, the new research from MIT and other institutions will be evaluated because it suggests that droplets from coughs and sneezes could be projected further than originally thought.

He said that if the evidence is supported, then "it might be that wearing a mask is equally as effective or more effective than distancing."

But he adds a warning that masks need to be worn properly, with a seal over the nose.

He adds that masks need to be worn consistently.

"It's not on to wear a mask and then decide to take it off to smoke a cigarette or eat a meal - it must be worn full time," he said.

Besides the new studies, the use of masks in parts of Asia with relatively low numbers of infections and deaths from the virus, including Japan and Hong Kong, has led some to theorise mask-wearing is making the difference.

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