The World Health Organisation has said face masks made from cloth should not be used in places where people do not follow social distancing norms.
The WHO said in settings where “physical distancing cannot be achieved” and “an increased risk of infection and/or negative outcomes” exists, then a medical mask should be preferred over a fabric one.
The WHO said in an advisory that anyone who is above 60 years of age, or those with pre-existing health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung disease, cancer or other underlying co-morbidities, must wear only a medical mask for their own protection.
With Telangana state said to be experiencing the community transmission phase – where anyone could be a Covid-19 carrier and spreader – the WHO’s guidance on using medical grade masks assumes importance.
While masks made from cloth can be used for activities such as using public transport, their use should always be accompanied by frequent hand hygiene and physical distancing.
The use of face masks has been a topic on which the WHO had been ambivalent since the outbreak of Covid-19. In its advice issued on Saturday, the WHO said that non medical masks which have lower filtering ability and increased breathability, and are made of woven fabrics such as cloth, can be used for “source control (used by infected persons) in community settings and not for prevention.”
The state and central governments have been appealing to people to maintain a minimum of six feet of distance in a public setting. Following this condition strictly is required to prevent either catching the virus from those around them, or spreading it by asymptomatic individuals who have no clue that they have been infected and have turned into disease spreaders. Wearing of masks has been made mandatory for everyone in a public setting but it is not uncommon to see people not following these guidelines in the city and elsewhere in the state.
The WHO advice comes at a time when state health department officials have been holding the general public partly responsible for the recent surge in Covid-19 cases because they are not following safety precautions. Some private hospitals have banned entry of people not wearing a triple layered medical mask