Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives; the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19. You should also maintain a minimum physical distance of at least 1 metre from others, frequently clean your hands and avoid touching your face and mask.
Medical masks can protect people wearing the mask from getting infected, as well as can prevent those who have symptoms from spreading them. WHO recommends the following groups use medical masks.
- Health workers
- Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, including people with mild symptoms
- People caring for suspect or confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of health facilities
Medical masks are also recommended for these at-risk people, when they are in areas of widespread transmission and they cannot guarantee a distance of at least 1 metre from others:
- People aged 60 or over
- People of any age with underlying health conditions
Non-medical, fabric masks are being used by many people in public areas, but there has been limited evidence on their effectiveness and WHO does not recommend their widespread use among the public for control of COVID-19. However, for areas of widespread transmission, with limited capacity for implementing control measures and especially in settings where physical distancing of at least 1 metre is not possible – such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments – WHO advises governments to encourage the general public to use non-medical fabric masks.
If medical masks are worn, appropriate use and disposal is essential to ensure they are effective and to avoid any increase in risk of transmission associated with the incorrect use and disposal of masks.
The following information on correct use of medical masks derives from the practices in health-care settingsd :
– place mask carefully to cover mouth and nose and tie securely to minimise any gaps between the face and the mask;
– while in use, avoid touching the mask; – remove the mask by using appropriate technique (i.e. do not touch the front but remove the lace from behind);
– after removal or whenever you inadvertently touch a used mask, clean hands by using an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water if visibly soiled
– replace masks with a new clean, dry mask as soon as they become damp/humid; – do not re-use single-use masks;
– discard single-use masks after each use and dispose of them immediately upon removal.
Cloth (e.g. cotton or gauze) masks are not recommended under any circumstance.