WHO says masks ‘no silver bullet’ for ending pandemic

The guidance on masks appears to be shifting, but social distancing is still the key step people can take. Muhammad Fayyaz Rub/Shutterstock.com
The guidance on masks appears to be shifting, but social distancing is still the key step people can take. Muhammad Fayyaz Rub/Shutterstock.com

The use of mask has not been proven to be effective against the prevention of Coronavirus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

The Director General, WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus , at the press conference via Twitter on Monday, said masks alone cannot stop the pandemic.

“There is no black or white answer, and no silver bullet. Masks alone cannot stop the #COVID19 pandemic. Countries must continue to find, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact.”

He said mask or no mask, there are proven things that can be done to keep safe, “keep your distance, clean your hands, cough or sneeze into your elbow, and avoid touching your face.”

Most importantly, masks should only ever be used as part of a comprehensive package of interventions, he said.

“If masks are worn, they must be used safely and properly. WHO has guidance on how to put on, take off and dispose of masks,” he said.

Masks have been used by many as a preventive measure against COVID-19, a deadly respiratory disease caused by the Coronavirus. It has infected over a million people globally and caused over 60,000 deaths.


Mr Ghebreyesus said that there is limited research in the area of masks and its effectiveness on COVID- 19.

For example, countries could consider using masks in communities where other measures such as cleaning hands and physical distancing are harder to achieve because of lack of water or cramped living conditions, he highlighted.

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WHO has been evaluating the use of medical and non-medical masks for #COVID19 more widely.

“Today, WHO is issuing guidance and criteria to support countries in making that decision.”

“WHO recommends the use of medical masks by people who are caring for a sick person and those who are sick in a community.

“In the community, we recommend the use of medical masks by people who are sick & those who are caring for a sick person at home.

“In health care facilities, WHO continues to recommend the use of medical masks, respirators & other personal protective equipment.

“We are concerned that the mass use of medical masks by the general population could exacerbate the shortage of these specialized masks for the people who need them most.

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“In some places, these shortages are putting health workers in real danger.”

He said first and foremost, medical masks must be prioritised for health workers on the front lines of the response.

“We know medical masks can help to protect health workers, but they’re in short supply globally”-

“We understand that some countries have recommended or are considering the use of both medical and non-medical masks in the general population to prevent the spread of #COVID19.”

He encouraged countries that are considering the use of masks for the general population to study their effectiveness so others can learn.

Coronavirus factsheet


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