Lifestyle Health and Wellbeing 18 Mar 2020 Can masks and gloves ...

Can masks and gloves actually stop coronavirus from spreading?

Published Mar 18, 2020, 9:41 am IST
Updated Mar 18, 2020, 9:41 am IST
Experts say masks and gloves cannot stop the spread of the virus
Representational image (AFP)
 Representational image (AFP)

Paris: Wearing masks and gloves as a precaution against coronavirus is ineffective, unnecessary for the vast majority of people, and may even spread infections faster, experts said on Tuesday.

While near-total lockdowns have been imposed in Italy, Spain and now France, the World Health Organization's advice has remained unchanged since the start of the global outbreak: wash your hands, don't touch your face, and keep your distance.


The WHO says it is advisable to wear a protective mask in public if you suspect you are infected or someone you are caring for is, in which case the advice is to stay home whenever possible.

"There are limits to how a mask can protect you from being infected and we''ve said the most important thing everyone can do is wash your hands, keep your hands away from your face, observe very precise hygiene," said WHO''s emergencies director Mike Ryan.

The advice is all the more urgent given the WHO''s estimate that health workers worldwide will need at least 89 million masks every month to treat Covid-19 cases.


But the message about masks hasn''t reached everyone.

"I''m surprised to see through the window in my ministry lots of people in the street wearing masks when that doesn''t correspond to our recommendations," French health minister Olivier Veran said on Monday.

Mariam, who didn''t want to give her last name, she said she got her mask from "a friend''s mother who works in a hospital".

As well as hoovering up stocks sorely needed by medical professionals, experts say masks can give people who wear them a false sense of security.


For example, many people who wear them don''t follow the official advice of washing their hands thoroughly first, ensuring it''s air tight and not to touch it once it's on.

"People are always readjusting their masks and that has the potential to contaminate them," said France''s head of health, Jerome Salomon.

"If someone has come across the virus, it''s surely going to be on the mask."

Gloves, similarly, don''t greatly heighten protection and could even end up making you sick.


One 2015 study in the American Journal of Infection control found that people touch their face on average 20 times an hour.

The novel coronavirus is transmitted via skin contact, transferring infected globules of mucus via the ears, eyes or nose.