WHO recommends use of facemask in specific conditions

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends wearing two types of medical and fabric facemask according to who wears it, when, and where.

A surgical mask is recommended to be worn by health workers, people who have COVID-19 symptoms, those who take care of someone confirmed with COVID-19 pandemic, people who are aged 60 and above, and those who have underlying health conditions as they are at greater risk of developing a serious illness. The fabric mask is recommended to be worn by people who have no COVID-19 symptoms and where COVID-19 is widespread, where physical distancing of one meter cannot be achieved, and in public gatherings.

WHO also recommends using three layers of fabric facemask as it acts as a barrier to protect others. The outer layer is a water-resistant fabric; the inner layer should be water absorbent and the middle layer should act as a filter.

WHO advices the general public to clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap or water before putting the masks and avoid touching the mask while using it, and to clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap or water. The WHO also recommends replacing the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and not to re-use surgical masks, however, cloth mask can be washed and re-used. 

Ministry of Health (MoH) strongly recommends everyone to wear facemasks; however, individuals must abide by the protocol for using and disposing of face masks which are being constantly advocated by MOH through its social media and other media platforms.

The health Minister Dechen Wangmo recommends that people wear facemasks in public gatherings and crowded areas, but she said it is not mandatory. She said she cannot enforce it on individuals and force people to wear facemask compulsorily but she recommends wearing it.

Further, she said that the ministry has been creating awareness among people to wear facemasks adding that it is uncertain whether there would not be any community transmission. Prominently, Lyonpo urged the people along the borders to wear masks apart from public crowded places.

However, people believe that not wearing face masks is fine since the country does not have any community transmission. Taxi driver Karma Dorji said he has adapted to the environment and is not scared anymore. “People were cautious when the cases were fewer but they are not anymore,” he said.

Karma Zangpo, a shopkeeper said he does not get time to change his facemask regularly with customers pouring in, so he assumed it is fine not to wear masks adding there is no local transmission. “When we see others not wearing a facemask, the fear decreases,” he added.

Nevertheless, Dr. Gosar Pemba, a Medical Superintendent of JDWNRH urges everyone to wear facemask especially while visiting a hospital and other public places. “We have been informing Desuups (who are at the entry point at the hospital) to inform people should come in a mask at the hospital,” Doctor said adding the government has not made it compulsory to wear a facemask.

Besides, Dr. Tshewang Tobgay at JDWNRH feels that COVID-19 is transmitted through droplets and if one wears a facemask, it can prevent the transmission of the virus. “I always recommend using facemask whenever we go outside,” he said adding there are types of facemask with assured quality which will prevent the spread of any diseases.

Use of facemask has also been made mandatory at the Centenary Farmer’s Market (CFM), especially during the weekends.

Tenzin Lhamo from Thimphu