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WHO encourages masks where virus widespread, distancing tough

The World Health Organization on Friday updated guidance on wearing facemasks during the coronavirus pandemic, encouraging their use in crowded situations in places where the new coronavirus is widespread.

As the deadly virus continues to spread, the WHO changed its stance on who should wear a mask, when it should be worn and what it should be made of.

“Governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“In areas with community transmission, we advise that people aged 60 years or over, or those with underlying conditions, should wear a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible,” he added.

The WHO also issued new guidance on the composition of non-medical fabric masks, advising that they should consist of at least three layers of different material.

But Tedros stressed that masks were only one part of an effective strategy to suppress the virus and could lead people into a false sense of security.

He said they were not a replacement for physical distancing and hand hygiene.

“Masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19,” he told a virtual news conference.

“Find, isolate, test and care for every case, and to trace and quarantine every contact. That is what we know works. That is every country’s best defence against COVID-19.”

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