WHO recommends stricter use of face masks amid second wave of coronavirus

Jimmy Nsubuga
·2 min read
A pedestrians wearing a face mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walks past the window display of a Debenhams department store in London on December 1, 2020, as non-essential retail prepares to re-open its doors to the public on December 2 following a second national lockdown to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. - Debenhams and Topshop-owner Arcadia, two of Britain's biggest clothing retailers, stood on the brink of collapse Tuesday following coronavirus fallout and fierce online competition, risking the loss of 25,000 jobs. British department store chain Debenhams said it was set to close for business save for an unlikely rescue, meaning around 12,000 jobs were set to go. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
The WHO has tightened its face mask guidelines (Getty)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a stricter use of face masks amid a second wave of coronavirus infections.

On Wednesday, the WHO tightened guidelines on wearing face coverings, advising that, where COVID-19 is spreading, they be worn by everyone in health care facilities and for all interactions in poorly-ventilated indoor spaces.

It said people – including children and students aged 12 or over – should always wear masks in shops, workplaces and schools that lack adequate ventilation, and when receiving visitors at home in poorly ventilated rooms.

In June, the WHO urged governments to ask everyone to wear fabric masks in indoor and outdoor public areas where there was a risk of transmission of the virus.

Since then, a second global wave of the epidemic has gathered pace which has led to a change in advice.

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In the UK, face coverings are compulsory in shops, supermarkets, public transport and NHS settings such as hospitals and GP surgeries.

The UK government adds in its advice: “If you can, you should also wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

“This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas.”

WHO said masks should also be worn outdoors and in well ventilated indoor spaces where physical distancing of at least one metre (3 feet) could not be maintained.

In all scenarios, masks – which protect against transmission of the virus rather than infection – need to be accompanied by other precautions such as handwashing, it added.

A pedestrian wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walks past a closed-down Dorothy Perkins clothes store, operated by Arcadia, in central London on November 30, 2020. - British clothing retailer Arcadia, ravaged by coronavirus lockdowns and fierce online competition, remains on the brink of bankruptcy despite an emergency loan offer, the BBC reported Monday. (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP) (Photo by HOLLIE ADAMS/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman wearing a face mask in London. (Getty)

In areas of COVID-19 spread, it also advised "universal" wearing of medical masks in health care facilities, including when caring for other patients.

The advice applied to visitors, outpatients and to common areas such as cafeterias and staff rooms.

Health care workers could wear N95 respirator masks if available when caring for COVID-19 patients, but their only proven protection is when they are doing aerosol-generating procedures which carry higher risks, the WHO said.

It recommended that people doing vigorous physical activity not wear masks, citing some associated risks, particularly for people with asthma.

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