Wearing face masks will become a “revolutionary” new norm of life the world needs to get accustomed to, just like it did when learning of cholera in the 19th century and of HIV in the 20th, a WHO coronavirus expert predicted.
“Some form of facial protection, I’m sure, is going to become the norm,” not least to give people a sense of reassurance, World Health Organization (WHO) special envoy David Nabarro told the BBC. This “new reality” will persist because Covid-19, which has so far claimed close to 116,000 of lives globally, “isn’t going to go away.”
Scientists don’t know if patients are able to generate immunity even after recovering from the coronavirus, Nabarro warned. The world is also miles away from the much-awaited vaccine, and its absence means that people have to cope using what they currently have.
Interrupting the virus transmission will likely become “a revolution” similar to the one that happened after “it was discovered that dirty water bore cholera in 1850,” or some 25 years ago when “we all learned about HIV/AIDS and its relationship with sex.”
Demand for masks and respirators skyrocketed after the Covid-19 outbreak, with medical facilities around the globe quickly running out of the crucial protective gear. Normally, healthcare staff have to put on — and then dispose of — a face mask, gloves and a protective robe every time when contacting a symptomatic or confirmed Covid-19 patient.
Wearing masks by regular citizens has become a matter of big debate in the media and scientific community. Some argue that commercially available masks lack adequate protection and therefore are useless against contagious respiratory illnesses such as the coronavirus. Others insist they do work, especially in overcrowded places.
WHO itself maintains that while a medical mask “can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including Covid-19,” the use of it alone is insufficient. The organization also believes masks could cause self-contamination, breathing difficulties and even “false sense of security.”
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