Mask guidelines pending

  • Nation
  • Monday, 06 Apr 2020

Everywhere you look: A motorist riding past electronic billboards around Kuala Lumpur that serve as a reminder for members of the public to wear masks.

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry is waiting for guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) on whether the wearing of masks should be part of a comprehensive measure to guard against Covid-19, says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

For now, he said the government would not stop anybody from wanting to do so.

Although WHO is now more open to the usage of face masks, he said the world body was still studying evidence on its efficacy.

“Nonetheless, we have advised all healthcare workers and other frontliners to wear a mask when they are facing the public.

“The question now is whether the public should be wearing one at all times.

“If you are exposing yourself to the public, perhaps you should but again we need to look into evidence on whether there is a real need to wear a mask, ” he said.

News reports emerged on Saturday that WHO seemed to have reversed its view on the matter with its executive director of health emergencies programme, Dr Michael Ryan, quoted as saying: “We can certainly see circumstances in which the use of masks, both homemade and cloth masks, at the community level may help with an overall comprehensive response to this disease.

“We will support governments who wish to have a measured approach to use masks, as well as those who include it as part of the comprehensive measure to control the disease.”

Previously, masks were only recommended for those with Covid-19 symptoms or who are caring for affected patients.

Reports now said that WHO was supportive of government initiatives that require or encourage the public to wear face masks but maintained that surgical masks should be reserved for medical professionals. The public can use cloth masks or other homemade coverings in addition to other measures such as hand washing and physical distancing.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has also recommended wearing face masks especially when social distancing measures are difficult, such as while grocery shopping.

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