Health

Coronavirus face masks advice could be set to change as WHO considers new evidence

Coronavirus face mask advice could be about to change. At the moment, face masks do not form part of UK govenrment and NHS advice to protect against the virus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently advises people who are ill to wear a mask. But new evidence has now emerged suggesting people who haven't been infected should wear them in public. 

A new study carried out in Hong Kong suggests masks may have a protective benefits for the public. 

A panel of WHO experts is now due to assess the evidence and potential change in its guidance may occur. 

Professor David Heymann, who is chairing the panel warned face masks may not always offer protection because some people wear them incorrectly or don't dispose of them properly. 

In a Chatham House briefing he was reported by Sky News saying: "There is right now a debate about the usefulness of masks because Hong Kong has provided some evidence that masks may be useful in protecting individuals from infection.

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"It's not clear yet whether or not that's true. 

"WHO, the group that I work with, is debating that with a group of experts around the world... to understand whether there is evidence which would call for a change in what WHO is recommending now for masks - which is that they really don't have a major role in protecting people from infection except in healthcare workers where they also wear eye protection and they also have a role from protecting others from coughs or sneezing.

"But as the evidence becomes available, it seems there will be a debate trying to decide whether masks play a role at some point in the outbreak.

"And believe me, if they do, there is a private sector healthy enough to begin producing those masks in quantities necessary."

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Microbiologist Simon Clarke discussed WHO changing the advice on face masks on Sky News. 

He said: "The advice they've made hitherto is based on scientific evidence as well. So whatever is new, whatever is presented to them, will have to overturn the existing body of evidence.

"They haven't just made up their previous advice on the hoof."

Simon also suggested the recommended distance between people may also soon change. 

He said: "There might be advice coming that the change in distance between people because I think there is now evidence that a cough can travel faster, and a sneeze can travel further than had previously been thought, and the virus can hang longer in the air than previously been thought."


Earlier this week, TV doctor Dr Hilary Jones issed advice on wearing a face mask more than once. 

Appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain with Lorraine, he said: "In an ideal world you wouldn't use a mask twice…

"If they're paper masks and they become moist they should be thrown away - full stop."

But if masks are dry, Dr Hilary said they could be reused.


But before and after you take off a face mask you should wash your hands. 

He added: "If they're dried out, the same person could use them again." 

Dr Hilary went on to discuss different types of face masks and their quality.

He said: "In intensive care units (ICU) they're air tight and much higher quality.

"If they're cloth or paper - in theory you can reuse them again.

"But it's not ideal, they need to be dry and handled very carefully."



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