What you need to know.
The debate about face masks and whether you should wear one has got plenty of airtime in recent weeks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health both advise you don’t need to wear one. The exceptions are if you feel unwell or have a job that requires you to be in close contact with people who may have Covid-19.
WHO’s latest guidance states that, if you’re healthy, there’s no evidence that wearing a mask when you’re in public settings can prevent infection from respiratory viruses, including Covid-19.
Using a mask can prevent the spread of infectious droplets if you’re sick. There’s also some limited evidence that shows wearing a mask may be beneficial if you have close contact with sick people – for example, someone in your household is ill.
If you’re thinking that wearing a mask can’t do any harm, there are potential downsides.
In its guidance, WHO says using face masks in the community may create a false sense of security and cause people to neglect other measures, such as hand washing and physical distancing.
Viruses can also contaminate the exterior of a face mask. This means if anyone removes or touches a mask that’s been infected and forgets to wash their hands, they risk catching the virus.
Ordinary paper or dust masks don’t stop fine particles. While the N95 mask (also called a “P2 mask”) does have a respirator that filters fine particles from the air, the masks will only provide protection if they’re close-fitting enough to create a seal around your face.
To reduce your risk of catching or spreading Covid-19, the Ministry of Health recommends:
Call Healthline (0800 358 5453) if you have any symptoms or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19.
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that include the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In January, officials in China identified a new coronavirus called novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV or Covid-19.