Stop buying masks and gloves — you very probably aren’t using them properly, and even if you did, you don’t need them.
Surgical masks and gloves won’t keep you safe from the coronavirus unless used properly and are unnecessary for the vast majority of people. Worse yet, panic-buying of these items has left stocks depleted for medical personnel, who rely on items such as gloves and masks to keep themselves and their patients alive.
Not only are these items ineffective in preventing infection with the coronavirus for most people (because of improper use), but they’re also unnecessary for the vast majority of the public, explained France24 on Tuesday.
Despite growing concerns about the virus globally — countries like Italy, Spain, and France have imposed total lockdowns — the World Health Organization is sticking to its initial advice: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and keep your distance. And, while the WHO does state that wearing a protective mask in public is advisable if you think you’re infected, or if interacting with someone who is, staying home would be the ideal course of action in both cases.
Wearing masks and gloves is not a reliable way to protect yourself from the virus, according to the WHO.
“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 WHO estimates that health workers worldwide will need at least 89 million masks every month to treat the current outbreak. There are already shortages being reported around the world, leaving the healthcare system — the very line of defense we rely on in such cases — completely exposed.
“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 told France24.
Experts also say that masks can give people a false sense of security. Most people who wear them don’t follow the proper procedure of first washing their hands, then ensuring the mask is airtight and not touching it after it’s on. People tend to readjust their masks quite frequently, which can contaminate them with the virus. Gloves, similarly, don’t greatly heighten protection and could even end up making you sick.
“If people cannot stop touching their face, gloves will not serve a purpose,” Amesh Adalja, from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told AFP. “Gloves are not a substitute for washing your hands.”