The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its guidance on Friday, recommending that governments of the world ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public areas in public places to curb the spread of the pandemic COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus.
According to Reuters (London), in its new guidance, prompted by evidence from studies conducted in recent weeks, the WHO stressed that face masks were only one of a range of tools that can reduce the risk of viral transmission, and should not give a false sense of protection.
Why has WHO changed its advice?
- The WHO says the widespread use of face masks or coverings by the general public is still not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence.
- But it says a growing amount of observational evidence from several countries that have ordered or recommended the wearing of masks, as well as the difficulty of social distancing in many settings, is enough for it to change its advice.
“Masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19,” the WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a briefing. The WHO’s technical lead expert on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said in a Reuters interview: “We are advising governments to encourage that the general public wears a mask. And we specify a fabric mask – that is, a non-medical mask.
While some countries and U.S. states have recommended or mandated the wearing of face coverings in public, the WHO had previously said there was not enough evidence for or against the use of masks for healthy people in the wider community. It had always recommended that medical masks be worn by people who are sick and by those caring for them.
Britain has said masks will be compulsory for passengers on buses, trains, aircraft, and ferries in England from June 15.
Australia has so far resisted calls for masks to be made mandatory, although it will be now very interesting to see the Morrison Government response to the latest changes in recommendations from the WHO.
But the advice has been broadened to recommend staff coming into contact with any patients or residents in clinics, hospitals, care homes and long-term residential facilities should also wear masks at all times, she said.
What kind of mask does the WHO recommend?
Because of the risk of diverting critical resources from health workers, the WHO says medical masks should be reserved for healthcare professionals and people in at-risk groups. Everyone else should use what it terms non-medical or fabric masks.
Here is some of its advice on mask choice:
- Choose materials that capture droplets but remain easy to breathe through.
- Avoid stretchy materials, because stretching may increase pore sizes, and preferably use a fabric that can be washed at 60C (140F) or higher
- A minimum of three layers is needed, including an absorbent inner layer, touching the mouth, and a synthetic outer layer that does not easily absorb water.
- Wash frequently, at the highest temperature possible, and don’t share with others.
Does FloatPac’s face masks meet the WHO requirements?
In short, yes they do!
- Our face masks have been deliberately designed using Australia’s highest quality cotton, which was originally recommended by the WHO as the best fabric to capture droplets, whilst remaining east to breathe through.
- None of the fabrics used in our design are stretchy
- Our face masks are able to be washed at 65 degrees and above
- Our face masks can be washed frequently, and
- Our face masks have an internal filter pocket for the addition of a critical filter medium during wearing.
FloatPac ships all masks Australia wide with free freight, and manufacture all of our masks at our Melbourne manufacturing facility.