For the first time in a number of months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued an update to its COVID-19 mask-wearing advice. According to the health agency, masks “should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives”.
The WHO noted that the wearing of a mask alone was not sufficient to provide protection against the virus but when used in conjunction with physical distancing, avoiding crowds, washing your hands and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue, it worked well.
“Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people,” the WHO said. “The appropriate use, storage and cleaning or disposal of masks are essential to make them as effective as possible.”
The agency also reminded people of the basics of mask-wearing, including how to safely wash and store masks so they are effective in protecting you. These guidelines include:
— Clean your hands before you put your mask on, as well as before and after you take it off, and after you touch it at any time.
— Make sure it covers both your nose, mouth and chin.
— When you take off a mask, store it in a clean plastic bag, and every day either wash it if it’s a fabric mask or dispose of a medical mask in a trash bin.
— Don’t use masks with valves.
As for the frequency in which masks should be worn, the WHO recommended a risk-based approach, especially in areas where COVID-19 clusters and community transmission was high.
“In areas of known or suspected community or cluster SARS-CoV-2 transmission: WHO advises that the general public should wear a non-medical mask in indoor shared workplaces, schools, or outdoor settings where physical distancing of at least 1 metre cannot be maintained,” the guidelines said.
“If indoors, unless ventilation has been assessed to be adequate, WHO advises that the general public should wear a non-medical mask, regardless of whether physical distancing of at least 1 metre can be maintained.”
While Australians currently seem to be living a fairly “COVID normal” life, this is a good reminder of the importance of mask-wearing. Mandatory mask-wearing was brought effect in Melbourne a number of months ago and the city has experienced great success with the policy. So, when you’re out and about (and social distancing isn’t possible), consider popping on a mask.
According to the WHO, three-layer fabric masks are the way to go provided you wash and wear them correctly. In the instance of face shields, these don’t provide much protection and the WHO considers them “an inferior alternative” so best to steer clear. If you’re in the market for a new fabric mask, consider checking out our extensive guide on where to purchase reusable face masks from small businesses.