WHO officials recommend masks only be worn by sick or carers

EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: World Health Organization (WHO) officials repeated recommendations that face masks only be worn by those with the coronavirus, or those caring for them, during a press conference in Geneva on Monday. 

“We don’t generally recommend the wearing of masks in public by otherwise well individuals,” said World Health Organisation (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Michael Ryan.

Ryan continued, saying “There also is the issue that we have a massive global shortage,” adding that “the people most at risk from this virus are frontline health workers who are exposed to the virus every second of every day. The thought of them not having masks is horrific, so we have to be very careful with supply.”

“It’s important that our frontline workers who we recommend standard and droplet precautions, have adequate use of PPE and so that we make sure that we prioritise the use of masks for those who need it most,” echoed World Health Organization (WHO) Technical Maria Van Kerkhove.

On Monday Austria became the first country to require supermarket customers to wear face masks while shopping, with the items, which will not be medical grade, set to be handed out to shoppers in front of stores.

Ryan also emphasised that there is no proven treatment or drug for the virus.

“So that we’re clear, there is no proven effective therapeutic or drug against COVID-19,” explained Ryan. However, he did go on to say that “there are a number of drugs that have shown promise, either in previous treatment of coronaviruses, like MERS or SARS, in the fight against HIV, or in other situations.”

“And there is some preliminary data from non-randomised studies, observational studies that indicate that some drugs and some drug cocktails may have an impact,” added Ryan.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus also spoke the conference to highlight how other medical issues continue to be concerns during the outbreak.

“Even though we’re in the midst of a crisis, essential health services must continue. Babies are still being born, vaccines must still be delivered, and people still need life-saving treatment for a range of other diseases,” said the WHO chief.

  1. SOT, Michael Ryan, World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director: “In general WHO recommends that the wearing of a mask by a member of the public is to prevent that individual giving the disease to somebody else, we don’t generally recommend the wearing of masks in public by otherwise well individuals.”
  2. SOT, Michael Ryan, World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director: “There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of mask by the mass population has any particular benefit. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse or wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly or taking it off and all the other risks that are always associated with that.”
  3. SOT, Michael Ryan, World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director: “And there also is the issue that we have a massive global shortage and where should these masks be and where are the best benefit because one can argue that there is a benefit of anything, but where does a given tool have its most benefit and right now the people most at risk from this virus are frontline health workers who are exposed to the virus every second of every day. The thought of them not having masks is horrific, so we have to be very careful with supply.”
  4. SOT, Maria Van Kerkhove, World Health Organization (WHO) Technical Lead: “The masks that we recommend are for people who are at home who are sick and for those individuals caring for those people who are home that are sick, but as Mike has said it’s important that our frontline workers who we recommend standard and droplet precautions, have adequate use of PPE and so that we make sure that we prioritise the use of masks for those who need it most.”
  5. SOT, Tedros Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General: “Even though we’re in the midst of a crisis, essential health services must continue. Babies are still being born, vaccines must still be delivered, and people still need life-saving treatment for a range of other diseases.”
  6. SOT, Tedros Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General: “We call on countries to work with companies to increase production; to ensure the free movement of essential health products; and to ensure equitable distribution of those products, based on need. Specific attention should be given to low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”
  7. SOT, Tedros Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General: “Some countries have strong social welfare system and some countries don’t. And I’m from Africa, as you know, and I know many people, actually have to work every single day to win their daily bread, and governments should take this population into account.”
  8. SOT, Michael Ryan, World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director: “Everyone’s talked about the curve up and everyone talks about the stabilisation, the question is how do you go down and going down isn’t just about a lockdown and let go. To get down from the numbers, not just stabilise, requires a redoubling of public health efforts to push down. Not, it won’t go down by itself. It will be pushed down, and that’s what we need countries to focus on.”
  9. SOT, Michael Ryan, World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director: “So that we’re clear, there is no proven effective therapeutic or drug against COVID-19. However, there are a number of drugs that have shown promise, either in previous treatment of coronaviruses, like MERS or SARS, in the fight against HIV, or in other situations. And there is some preliminary data from non-randomised studies, observational studies that indicate that some drugs and some drug cocktails may have an impact.”
  10. SOT, Michael Ryan, World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director: “Some of those drugs may impact the length of disease. Some may impact the severity of disease, and the dosage of dosages of those drugs when they’re given to what patient, at what stage of the disease, has not been standardised, and we’ve never had a comparison group where we’ve had a randomised approach to treatment with a drug or not treatment with a drug. It is very important that we continue to accelerate the implementation of the randomised control trials that have already begun all over the world, including the WHO coordinated Solidarity 1 Trial.”

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