"Governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is hard, such as on public transport or in stores", said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus he said during a press conference on Friday.
Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, listed new precautions on Friday at virtual news conference.
WHO also widened its mask guidance to specify that health workers in areas where the virus is spreading freely should always wear masks inside medical facilities.
Moreover, the organization now says that people over age 60, as well as the medically vulnerable, should wear not just a face mask but a medical mask outside.
Fabric masks, either homemade or store-bought, can help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in settings where physical distancing is hard, according to new research that informed the World Health Organisation's updated guidelines on mask wearing.
British authorities said this week that face coverings would be compulsory on subways and other mass transit.
In fact, the new guideline appears to come from recent studies that have concluded wearing masks can help prevent a COVID-19 infection.
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WHO continues to recommend that people who are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 should remain at home, and should consult their health care provider.
"What we are trying to do with the guidance that we're putting out is to provide some parameters on, if you're going to use a fabric mask, here are the best fabrics that you can use based on the evidence that we have", Van Kerkhove said, adding that other guidance, such as maintaining physical distancing and frequent handwashing, remains important too.
A stonemason, wearing a protective face mask, works on the forecourt of the Basilica of Saint Denis, in Saint Denis, north of Paris, France, on June 5, 2020.
"Masks are not a replacement for physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other public health measures", Tedros said. NY state, for example, requires people to wear masks in any public place where social distancing isn't possible.
'I can not say this clearly enough: masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19, ' Dr Tedros reiterated.
However, the United Nations health body warns that masks are not a replacement for physical distancing, hand hygiene and other public health measures, and they are only of benefit as part of a comprehensive approach in the fight against COVID-19.
To countries, he urged them to "find, isolate, test and care for every case, and to trace and quarantine every contact".