New Delhi | Jagran Lifestyle Desk: With over 7.2 million confirmed infections and over 410,000 deaths recorded at present globally, the Coronavirus pandemic continues to keep the world on its toes and the authorities devoid of any sleep while stepping forward to control the spread of the contagion infection.

After months of lockdown, as the economies worldwide start reopening, the emphasis remains on social distancing, frequent cleansing/sanitisation and use of masks as a COVID-protection measure among others.

However, the World Health Organisation has been fairly inconsistent in its guidelines underlining the use of masks as a public measure being adopted to fight the Coronavirus.

What is WHO’s stand on use of masks?

WHO, days before COVID was declared a pandemic, stated in an advisory published in January 2020 that: “Wearing a medical mask is one of the prevention measures to limit spread of certain respiratory diseases, including 2019-nCoV,in affected areas.”

However, in the next paragraph, WHO cautions that the masks “alone” do not provide adequate level of protection. “The use of a mask alone (bolded by WHO) is insufficient to provide the adequate level of protection and other equally relevant measures should be adopted. If masks are to be used, this measure must be combined with hand hygiene and other infection prevention and control measures to prevent the human-to-human transmission of 2019-nCov,” the advisory said.

On Friday, last week, WHO changed its mask advice, recommending that people wear fabric masks if they could not maintain social distancing, if they were over age 60 or had underlying medical conditions, Associated Press reported.

How effectively wearing a mask prevents the COVID-19?

Earlier in March, the Czech government was the first governing authority outside the Mainland China which mandated the use of masks in public, flouting which could result in an on the spot fine of 360 Euros. Although, not completely credited to the mandatory use of masks, but the country so-far has been able to contain the spread of Coronavirus with less than 2,000 active cases now and 330 deaths, according to the data available on Johns Hopkins University's COVID-tracker.

This is half the number of active COVID cases in its Southern neighbour Austria, and much lesser than its western neighbor Germany which is currently bearing the tenth largest COVID caseload in the world.

Wearing a face mask in a proper manner can help keep cough droplets away from your direct contact when someone in the vicinity is coughing, sneezing, or even speaking. Since COVID-19 infection spreads specifically in this manner, masks become almost necessary for an individual living in an area where COVID-19 infection cases have already been confirmed.

What are other evidences that wearing a mask prevents COVID-19 spread?

In an interview with the journal ‘Science’, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director-General George Gao said on March 27th, “The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks.”

Several studies from Research Centers in many Ivy League Universities have shown the efficacy of using a DIY (do it yourself) mask made of cotton t-shirts, as a ‘better than no protection’ mode against influenza-like infections.

The transitioning of ‘better than no protection’ to ‘absolute protection’ has been highlighted by an Oxford study, which said that, “Masks are only one component of a complex intervention which must also include eye protection, gowns, behavioural measures to support proper doffing and donning, and general infection control measures.”

Posted By: Talib Khan