Based on Lancet Respir Med 2020

Cover image: “Let’s go to battle ” the new Slovak government of Igor Matovic took office on 21.03.2020

Summary Recommendations

  • People who have respiratory symptoms or are caring for someone with respiratory symptoms should wear a face mask in public.
  • People in quarantine should wear a face mask if they have to leave home for any reason.
  • Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions should wear face masks in public.
  • Countries should consider stockpiling face masks for future pandemics.

Core Statements

  • The main reason, that the widespread use of face masks is discouraged is the limited supply for health-care professionals.
  • No clear evidence, that face masks provide protection against community respiratory infections in general
  • Evidence suggests, that COVID-19 might be transmitted before symptom onset, so that community transmission could be reduced if everyone (including infected individuals who don’t have symptoms but are contagious) wore face masks.
  • Use of face masks and N95 respirators (but not other protective equipment) by the general public increases when local epidemics begin, exacerbating global supply shortage. Health care authorities should prioritise health-care workers and vulnerable populations in distribution.
  • Incorrect use of face masks (makeshift masks, reusing disposable masks) could even increase risk of infection.
  • Cultural aspects should be considered. Stigmatization and racial aggravations have occurred in countries, where people are not used to seeing people wearing face masks in public (North America, Europe). This would be better, if everyone wore masks.

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