Using face masks in the community - Reducing COVID-19 transmission from potentially asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people through the use of face masks
This document provides the ECDC opinion on the suitability of face masks and other face covers in the community by individuals who are not ill in order to reduce potential pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 from the mask wearer to others. Available in 26 languages.
- The use of medical face masks by healthcare workers must be given priority over the use in the community.
- The use of face masks in public may serve as a means of source control to reduce the spread of the infection in the community by minimising the excretion of respiratory droplets from infected individuals who have not yet developed symptoms or who remain asymptomatic. It is not known how much the use of masks in the community can contribute to a decrease in transmission in addition to the other countermeasures.
- The use of face masks in the community could be considered, especially when visiting busy, closed spaces, such as grocery stores, shopping centres, or when using public transport, etc.
- The use of non-medical face masks made of various textiles could be considered, especially if – due to supply problems – medical face masks must be prioritised for use as personal protective equipment by healthcare workers. This is based on limited indirect evidence supporting the use of non-medical face masks as a means of source control.
- The use of face masks in the community should be considered only as a complementary measure and not as a replacement for established preventive measures, for example physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, meticulous hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth.
- Appropriate use of face masks is key for the effectiveness of the measure and can be improved through education campaigns.
- Recommendations on the use of face masks in the community should carefully take into account evidence gaps, the supply situation, and potential negative side effects.
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