"Governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is hard, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments", said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The UN agency's advice that all healthcare workers dealing with COVID-19 patients, or with suspected cases of the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, should wear medical masks remains the same, Van Kerkhove said.
Tedros added that the new guidance was updated based on evolving evidence.
"What we are encouraging is that in situations where you have intense transmission, in situations where you cannot do physical distancing, that a fabric mask should be worn - can be worn, should be worn - it's something that needs to be considered very seriously", Van Kerkhove said.
The WHO also issued new guidance on the composition of non-medical fabric masks, advising that they should consist of at least three layers of different material.
'Masks are only of benefit as part of a comprehensive approach in the fight against COVID-19. And we specified a cloth mask, that is, a non-medical mask, "said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO chief technical expert at COVID-19".
"In light of evolving evidence, World Health Organization advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is hard - such as on public transport, in shops, or in other confined or crowded environments", said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Face masks were previously not recommended for those who are healthy and do not show symptoms.
Fabric masks, either homemade or store-bought, can help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in settings where physical distancing is hard, according to new research that informed the World Health Organisation's updated guidelines on mask wearing.
A woman wears a face mask as she sells vegetables in the Adjame market of Abidjan on June 5, 2020.
The WHO was asked about any guidance for political leaders in the U.S., where it was noted some key leaders at the White House did have masks on at a press conference Friday.
"If it's absolutely necessary for a sick person or a contact to leave the house, they should wear a medical mask", Tedros said.
Tedros warned that while masks help protect people from contracting the virus, they can also be an avenue for infection if not handled properly.
That is what we know works.
"The cornerstone of the response in every country must be to find, isolate, test and care for every case, and to trace and quarantine every contact", Tedros stressed.
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