Facial protection will be the norm, says senior World Health Organisation doctor

A senior World Health Organisation (WHO) figure has said that facial protection is going to become the norm in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr David Nabarro, the WHO’s Covid-19 envoy, said that people would need to become accustomed to a “new reality”.

He told the BBC: “Some form of facial protection, I’m sure, is going to become the norm, not least to give people reassurance.

“But, I would say, don’t imagine that you can do what you like when you are wearing a mask.”

The use of masks has been a major feature of the pandemic, with healthcare workers seeking them as part of their protection equipment.

But the WHO does not recommend them for widespread use and has raised concerns there could be a shortage of masks for medical workers if they are bought up by the general public.

The UK Government has previously said there were no plans to change the current guidance on masks, adding they were not necessary for use by the general public when out and about.

Speaking at the daily press conference on Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government will “follow the science”, which he says states that face masks “don’t have a material impact outside of those settings which Public Health England have set out”.

On Monday, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser said the situation with masks was being monitored.

He said: “The evidence on masks is much more persuasive for masks stopping you giving it to somebody than it is for you preventing you catching it.

“We have a review ongoing at the moment on the evidence around masks.

“If that review concludes that the position should change, we will of course make that recommendation and if it stays the same we will make that clear as well.”

Meanwhile, Dr Nabarro added that people’s lifestyles would also need to change as a result of the virus.

Coronavirus – Mon Apr 13, 2020
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance spoke on the issue of masks during the daily press conference (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

He said: “Because this virus isn’t going to go away, and we don’t know whether people who have had the virus stay immune afterwards and will not get it again.

“And, we don’t know when we will have a vaccine.

“So, what we are saying is ‘get societies defended’.

“Yes, we will have to wear masks.

“Yes, there will have to be more physical distancing.

“Yes, we must protect the vulnerable.

“But, most importantly, we must all learn how to interrupt transmission.”

Comparing the pandemic to what happened “25 years ago (when) we all learned about HIV/Aids and its relationship with sex”, he added: “We changed, and we adapted and we learned how to live with these new realities.

“We have also got to live with the new reality of life with Covid.”

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