Wednesday, 25 November 2020

To mask or not to mask: confusion spreads over coronavirus protection

(Reuters) – “Do not wear a mask if you are well” read a warning plastered across the front of Singapore’s main newspaper on Friday, as authorities around the world sought to calm panic buying of masks seen as a guard against the fast-spreading coronavirus.

A sign is posted on a medical supply store that says surgical and N95 masks are already out of stock, in Manila, Philippines, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

In neighboring Malaysia, the government urged people to always have masks and hand sanitizers ready, similar to advice by authorities in Thailand and Vietnam.

- Advertisement -

Conflicting messages have sowed confusion over how to protect against an epidemic that has claimed over 200 lives in China and spread to over 20 countries, with some experts saying wrong handling of masks could even increase infection risk.

“Wearing a mask only when u feel unwell? Then why do u need soldiers when there isn’t war? It’s better to be safe than sorry” Facebook user Kenny Chan Wai Kong posted in Singapore, where authorities have announced plans to give four masks to every household as retailers’ stocks run dry across the island.

In parts of Asia, wearing face masks is common when people are sick or to counter urban pollution.

Official guidance from the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention makes no mention of wearing a face mask as a preventative measure against the virus – but their websites do not specifically advise against them.

- Advertisement -

Australia and Taiwan have said healthy people don’t need masks, but Australia has released 1 million masks from the national medical stockpile, and masks are widely worn in Taiwan’s capital Taipei where the government has imposed purchase limits and an export ban on masks.

The Taiwan Railway Administration said on Friday that if the virus continues to spread it will refuse to carry passengers not wearing masks.

MASKS MUST BE FITTED CORRECTLY

Coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person, although it is not clear how easily. Most cases have been in people who have been in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the center of the outbreak, family members of those infected, or medical workers.

Transmission is likely through contact with an infected person via particles in the air from coughing or sneezing, or by someone touching an infected person or object with the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

“Situations that require a mask are when you are in a crowd…or if you are caring for a sick person. If it makes you feel better, wear a surgical mask,” Angela Rasmussen, virologist at the Center for Infection & Immunity at Columbia University said on the Reuters Global Markets Forum.

Other experts have said disposable surgical masks may not fit the face tightly enough to prevent infection, while some have pointed out that wrong handling of masks such as touching the front could increase the likelihood of infection spread.

- Advertisement -

In Hong Kong, a lawmaker who chairs the city’s government health services panel was slammed over a short video she posted showing people how to steam and re-use disposable face masks.

More unusual advice has seen India’s government suggest a traditional concoction that includes ginger and holy basil as virus protection, while a Myanmar minister was rebuked for sharing a Facebook post that advised people to eat more onions.

Some overseas Chinese have been buying masks to send to friends and relatives in China, where some stocks have been running out. Chinese citizens living in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia sent 150,000 masks back to their home province of Gansu on Thursday, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

In China, where nearly 10,000 cases have been reported so far, Zunyou Wu, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state broadcaster that people need to wear masks when taking public transport.

Reporting by John Geddie, Aradhana Aravindan and Keith Zhai in Singapore, Joseph Sipalan in Kuala Lumpur, Khahn Vu in Hanoi, Jiraporn Kuhakan and Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok, Ben Blanchard in Taipei, Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong, Euan Roche in Mumbai, Thu Thu Aung in Yangon and Jonathan Barrett in Sydney; Writing by John Geddie; Editing by Michael Perry

- Advertisement -

Related Articles

China pledges continuous support for Costa Rica’s COVID-19 fight

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Friday that China will continue to...

Does US-China coronavirus blame game threaten scientific investigation?

As world leaders and experts emphasize global cooperation in beating back...

MOST READ

American Airlines eliminates change fees in trips from Central America

QTRAVEL - American Airlines announced on Thursday, November 19, the immediate elimination of the US$200 fee for changing the ticket from Central and South...

Italy to start distributing Covid-19 vaccine at the end of January

(CNN) ROME - Italy wants to start distributing a Covid-19 vaccine at the end of January, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Monday during an...

When in Rome, ‘Forbidden to talk about the coronavirus’

QWORLD - The message is clear and posted for everyone to see: "It is forbidden to talk about the coronavirus." In a small bar and...

Arrival of the vaccine against covid-19 will not replace other measures against contagion

QCOSTARICA - The pace with which COVID-19 vaccines are being developed worries some people, who fear they are not safe products. Both Leandra Abarca, coordinator...

Traveling and Studying in Canada: How to balance Homework and Fun?

International students arriving in Canada find this destination amazing for both getting a degree and having fun. For most of them, there is a...

Covid-19 snatched parents from renowned CCSS surgeon

QCOSTARICA  - His heart thumped every time he reached the basement of the hospital and pressed the button for the elevator that would take him...

Let's Keep This Going!

To be updated with all the latest news and information about Costa Rica and Latin America.

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.