The World Health Organization changed its face mask recommendations in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, saying it should be worn in places where the virus is common and physical distance is difficult.
The use of masks has been a hot topic since the pandemic broke out in China in December.
"Given the evolving evidence, WHO advises governments to encourage the general public to wear masks when there is widespread transmission and physical distance is difficult," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In areas with virus transmission at the community level, "we recommend that people over the age of 60 or those with underlying medical conditions wear a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible," he added.
However, the UN health agency stressed that face masks alone "do not protect you from COVID-19" – and that people suffering from the virus should not be public if they can avoid it.
The WHO maintained its recommendation that people suffering from COVID-19 symptoms should stay at home. If it is imperative for you or your contacts to leave home, you should wear a medical mask.
As before, those who look after an infected person at home should wear a medical mask in the same room. Healthcare professionals should wear medical masks and protective equipment if COVID-19 patients are suspected or confirmed.
In an update that affects healthcare workers, WHO now recommends that in areas with widespread virus transmission, all people working in clinical areas of a healthcare facility should wear medical masks – not just those who deal with patients with COVID-19 deal.
Three-layer face mask
The WHO also issued new guidelines on the composition of non-medical tissue masks to the general public and recommended that they should consist of at least three layers of different materials.
The inner layer should be made of a water-absorbing material such as cotton, the middle layer – which acts as a filter – made of a material such as non-woven polypropylene, while the outer layer made of a water-resistant material such as polyester.
WHO emergency director Michael Ryan emphasized that putting on a fabric mask is primarily about preventing the wearer from potentially infecting others rather than protecting themselves.
"It's an altruistic act," he said.
And Tedros emphasized that masks are only part of an effective virus suppression strategy – and should not lure people into a false sense of security.
He said they are not a substitute for physical distance and hand hygiene.
"Find, isolate, test and maintain each case and track and quarantine every contact. We know this works. It's the best defense against COVID-19 in any country."
The novel corona virus has infected at least 6.7 million people and killed more than 390,000 people since the outbreak in China last December. This emerges from a list of official sources compiled by AFP.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)