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Are surgical masks effective against coronavirus disease?

There is currently no evidence to suggest surgical masks are effective against protecting the ‘healthy public’ from coronavirus. It is recommended, however, that those who are displaying symptoms of coronavirus wear a mask. Those who are caring for someone with coronavirus should also wear a mask, as well as those working in clinical healthcare settings. 

According to the World Health Organization, wearing a surgical mask to protect against coronavirus is not effective in the absence of thorough hand-washing and social distancing. 

Who should wear surgical masks?

The World Health Organization advises only certain groups of people should wear face masks. These groups include: 

  • People who have coronavirus 
  • People who are looking after those who have coronavirus
  • Healthcare workers. 

People who are showing symptoms of coronavirus should wear a mask if there is one available to them, and seek medical care. 

If you do not have the symptoms of coronavirus, you should not wear a face mask. There is no evidence to suggest wearing a surgical mask will prevent the spread of coronavirus if you are healthy.

The World Health Organization recommends those who are healthy only wear face masks under two circumstances: 

  1. They are caring for someone who has, or may have, coronavirus
  2. They are a healthcare professional working in a clinical setting. 

The World Health Organization says masks can offer those who wear them a false sense of security. Safe behaviours amid the pandemic include thoroughly washing your hands, maintaining safe social distancing from others, and practising good domestic hygiene. There is no evidence to suggest that wearing a mask will offer the public an increased level of safety or security.

Read: What are the signs and symptoms of coronavirus?