The World Health Organization this week said that no change would be made to their recommendation of fabric face masks even with the spread of the new coronavirus variants, as these are still transmitted the same way.
The body’s Covid19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said that the new variants may have “increased transmissibility” but that there is “no indication that modes of transmission has changed. It spreads the same way.”
Their advisory that non-medical, fabric face masks may be used by the general public below 60 years of age and with no underlying health issues remains, as does their recommendation of medical grade masks for health workers in clinical settings.
The same goes for those who feel sick, are awaiting Covid19 test results, are positive for the virus or are caring for a suspected or confirmed case.
“We will continue to look at the evidence that we have seen, but from the data that we have seen from the countries that have these variants, there is no change in the modes of transmission,” Kerkhove said. “If anything changes, we will modify and we will update [guidance] accordingly.”
WHO also advised that fabric masks be made of three layers for sufficient protection: the inner layer must be water-absorbent (e.g., cotton); middle layer must be a filter (e.g., non-woven polypropylene); and the outermost layer should be water-resistant (e.g., polyester).
Kerkhove cautioned that wearing face masks alone cannot rein in the pandemic, but hygiene and social distancing as well.
Some countries such as Germany and Austria have begun requiring people to wear medical masks while riding public transport or in shops, due to concerns over the spread of the new virus mutations.