WHO envoy says people should wear masks 'widely' to stop Covid-19 spread

15 April 2020, 14:33 | Updated: 15 April 2020, 15:38

Dr David Nabarro spoke to LBC's Nick Ferrari
Dr David Nabarro spoke to LBC's Nick Ferrari. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The special envoy of the World Health Organisation has said he will be wearing a face mask to mitigate the risk of catching coronavirus.

Dr David Nabarro told LBC's Nick Ferrari that as he falls into a higher risk category, he would be wearing a mask when the UK comes out of lockdown.

He said: "I personally will be wearing a mask when lockdown's released because I'm 70 and I've got blood pressure that is controlled so I do believe that there should be wider wearing of masks."

His comments come as the government keep the decision to formally recommend the wearing of face masks "under review".

The WHO itself has not issued advice that the masks should be worn.

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Face masks have become a common sight, although they are not formally recommended
Face masks have become a common sight, although they are not formally recommended. Picture: PA

But despite this, multiple countries have now broken rank and recommended citizens wear something to cover their face.

The US is among the growing number of nations, although President Donald Trump has said he will not be following the advice his administration has given.

Dr Nabarro also acknowledged that the entire population cannot currently be issued face masks, and said any supplies the country have should first be given to healthcare workers.

"Without them, they are at risk. There is a global shortage, they must be prioritised," he said.

"Face protection needs to be worn by people who have symptoms of the disease or suspect they might have symptoms of the disease. That stops them spreading it."

"Thirdly people whose occupations require them to be up close to other people, whether it's working in supermarkets, hairdressing or similar things.

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"They may well wish to wear face protection and I believe they should. You never know who might have the Covid."I think the wider population on many countries now are wearing face masks."

There has currently not been any solid scientific proof that ordinary masks block the virus from entering a person's body, although N95 masks - currently being used by nurses and doctors on the frontline - do block it.

In addition, there have been a number of contradictory statements about the usefulness of masks in the fight against coronavirus.

In a statement online, the WHO says the wearing of masks "can limit" the spread, although this is "insufficient".

The full statement reads: “Wearing a medical mask is one of the prevention measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including Covid-19.

"However, the use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection, and other measures should also be adopted."

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