Face masks use U-turn by WHO on way

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
The call for New Zealanders to wear face masks in public is likely to gain momentum within days.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is understood to be on the verge of doing a U-turn on its mask advisory.

Epidemiologist and face mask supporter Michael Baker, of the University of Otago, Wellington, yesterday said WHO officials were actively reconsidering the global health organisation’s stance on face masks.

"It will almost certainly change," Prof Baker said.

To date, WHO has said there was no evidence wearing a mask protected against the virus.

It only recommended the use of masks by members of the public who had symptoms or were caring for people who had Covid-19.

It was understood the WHO announcement was expected next week.

The Ministry of Health said for most people wearing masks was not recommended.

The ministry had been asked whether a U-turn by WHO would result in it changing its advice to New Zealanders and whether a change of policy would mean it was compulsory to wear face masks in public. A response had not been received by last night.

An unnamed source said the ministry would want to keep its advice aligned with that of WHO.

Prof Baker said at Level 2 there was still the potential for the virus to be circulating in the country. Face masks would also give people confidence to use public transport. Buses and other public transport could operate at full capacity.

"But the main reason is that we would then have masking as something we know.

"It is not yet second nature for us in the Western world," he said.

"With better border controls and the use of masks we could have avoided the severe lockdown we had," Prof Baker said.

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