MASKS AND MANDATES - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!

Updated: Feb 9

The follwing informaiton is according to the World Health Organisaiton:


1. SHOULD CHILDREN WEAR A MASK?

An international and multidisciplinary expert group brought together by WHO reviewed evidence on COVID-19 disease and transmission in children and the limited available evidence on the use of masks by children.

Based on this and other factors such as childrens’ psychosocial needs and developmental milestones, WHO and UNICEF advise the following:

Children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks. This is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance.

WHO and UNICEF advise that the decision to use masks for children aged 6-11 should be based on the following factors:

  • Whether there is widespread transmission in the area where the child resides

  • The ability of the child to safely and appropriately use a mask

  • Access to masks, as well as laundering and replacement of masks in certain settings (such as schools and childcare services)

  • Adequate adult supervision and instructions to the child on how to put on, take off and safely wear masks

  • Potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development, in consultation with teachers, parents/caregivers and/or medical providers

  • Specific settings and interactions the child has with other people who are at high risk of developing serious illness, such as the elderly and those with other underlying health conditions

WHO and UNICEF advise that children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.

An instructive video on when and how children should wear masks here.




2. HOW TO WEAR A MASK

Here are the basics of how to wear a mask:

  • Clean your hands before you put your mask on, as well as before and after you take it off, and after you touch it at any time.

  • Make sure it covers both your nose, mouth and chin.

  • When you take off a mask, store it in a clean plastic bag, and every day either wash it if it’s a fabric mask, or dispose of a medical mask in a trash bin.

  • Don’t use masks with valves.

For specifics on what type of mask to wear and when, see our Q&A and watch our videos. There is also a Q&A focused on masks and children. Take a 1-hour WHO course that tells you when, where and how to wear a mask in community settings. Find out more about the science of how COVID-19 infects people, and our bodies react, by watching or reading this interview.

For specific advice for decision makers, see WHO’s technical guidance.


An instructive video on when to wear a mask here.


3. WEARING A MASK WHILE EXERCISING

Even when you’re in an area of COVID-19 transmission, masks should not be worn during vigorous physical activity because of the risk of reducing your breathing capacity. No matter how intensely you exercise, keep at least 1 metre away from others, and if you’re indoors, make sure there is adequate ventilation.



4. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEDICAL MASKS AND RESPIRATORS?

Medical masks (also known as surgical masks) are:

  • composed of 3 layers of synthetic nonwoven materials

  • configured to have filtration layers sandwiched in the middle

  • available in different thicknesses

  • have various levels of fluid-resistance and filtration

Respirators (also known as filtering facepiece respirators – FFP) are available at different performance levels such as FFP2, FFP3, N95, N99, N100.

Medical masks and respirator masks are similar in their filtration value. However, respirators also have a tight fit around the wearer face as the model and size of the respirator is specific to the wearer to ensure an adequate seal. Respirator masks are designed to protect health workers who provide care to COVID-19 patients in settings and areas where aerosol generating procedures are undertaken. They are also recommended for health workers providing care to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients in settings where ventilation is known to be poor or cannot be assessed or the ventilation system is not properly maintained.

Health workers should be fit tested before using a respirator to ensure that they are wearing the correct size. Wearing a loose-fitting respirator will not offer the same level of protection to the wearer as it may allow small particles to get inside the mask where there are gaps, for example through the side.


5. WHO recommendations on mask use by health workers, in light of the Omicron variant of concern - Interim Guidelines 22 December 2021

This document provides updated interim recommendations on the use of masks by health workers providing care to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, in light of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2. These interim guidelines supersede the recommendations provided in the Annex to Infection prevention and control during health care when COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed published on 1 October 2021. WHO continually evaluates the emerging evidence and will review these interim recommendations and issues new guidance as needed.