With advice from the Scottish Government that citizens should wear face coverings in some situations we give information on the benefits of masks in the community.
We have reproduced below an extract from the World Health Organisation document ‘Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19‘
- There is limited evidence that wearing of masks by people who have Covid-19 asymptomatically may prevent them spreading the virus to others.
- There is no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, can prevent them from infection with COVID-19.
- The use of medical masks in the community may create a false sense of security, leading to potentially less adherence to proven preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene.
- For any type of mask, appropriate use and disposal are essential to ensure that they are effective and to avoid any increase in transmission.
- Medical masks should be reserved for health care workers.
World Health Organization
“Studies of influenza, influenza-like illness, and human coronaviruses provide evidence that the use of a medical mask can prevent the spread of infectious droplets from an infected person to someone else and potential contamination of the environment by these droplets.
There is limited evidence that wearing a medical mask by healthy individuals in the households or among contacts of a sick patient, or among attendees of mass gatherings may be beneficial as a preventive measure.
However, there is currently no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, including universal community masking, can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
Medical masks should be reserved for health care workers. The use of medical masks in the community may create a false sense of security, with neglect of other essential measures, such as hand hygiene practices and physical distancing, and may lead to touching the face under the masks and under the eyes, result in unnecessary costs, and take masks away from those in health care who need them most, especially when masks are in short supply.
Persons with symptoms should:
- wear a medical mask, self-isolate, and seek medical advice [goto NHS 111 online] as soon as they start to feel unwell. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing. It is important to note that early symptoms for some people infected with COVID-19 may be very mild;
- follow instructions on how to put on, take off, and dispose of medical masks;
- follow all additional preventive measures, in particular, hand hygiene and maintaining physical distance from other persons.
All persons should:
- avoid groups of people and enclosed, crowded spaces;
- maintain physical distance of at least 2 m from other persons, in particular from those with respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing, sneezing);
- perform hand hygiene frequently, using an alcohol-based hand rub if hands are not visibly dirty or soap and water when hands are visibly dirty;
- cover their nose and mouth with a bent elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing, dispose of the tissue immediately after use, and perform hand hygiene;
- refrain from touching their mouth, nose, and eyes.”