WHO director warns: Masks can 'create a false sense of security'

Adriana Belmonte
Associate Editor

Despite many countries beginning to reopen their economies, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning the public to not let their guard down amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press briefing on Friday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom reminded the public that the coronavirus is still prevalent around the world. He reiterated the WHO’s recommendations, which state that people should continue wearing masks in public. 

Traveling nurse Meghan Lindsey looks down wearing a protective face mask after her shift in the Queens borough of New York, U.S. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

But, Adhanom also noted that masks aren’t the only way that the public should be protecting themselves against the virus. 

“Masks can also create a false sense of security, leading people to neglect measures like hand hygiene and physical distancing,” Adhanom said. “I cannot say this enough: Masks will not protect you alone from COVID-19.”

‘Masks on their own will not protect you’

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), is reiterating WHO guidelines. (Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via REUTERS)

So far, more than 50 countries have mandated their citizens to wear face masks when out in public. Within the U.S., it varies by state.

“In light of evolving evidence, WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops, or in other confined or crowded environments,” Dr. Adhanom said. 

N95 masks are arguably the best types of masks to use, although many have tried to reserve them for health care professionals and other front line workers. In the U.S. and many other parts of the world, people have begun making their own masks out of cloth, along with stocking up on surgical masks. 

There are over 6.6 million coronavirus cases worldwide. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

According to WHO recommendations, though, fabric masks should consist of at least three layers of different material. And, Adhanom reminded people that they can still get the virus if they touch their masks with contaminated masks or continuously take it off. 

“Masks should only ever be used as part of a comprehensive strategy in the fight against COVID,” Adhanom said. “Masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19.” 

Other safety precautions that also need to be taken into account include social distancing of at least six feet and maintaining proper hand hygiene, along with staying home if you’re feeling ill or have been exposed to someone else who is ill. 

Adriana is a reporter and editor for Yahoo Finance covering politics and health care policy. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.

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