march 2020 • The Lancet

Rational use of face masks in the COVID-19 pandemic

Shuo Feng, Chen Shen, Nan Xia, Wei Song, et al.

DOI: 10.1016/S2213

Key message

A utilização generalizada de máscara facial pela comunidade tem sido controversa. No entanto, é essencial distinguir "ausência de evidência" e "evidência de ausência". Atualmente, a OMS recomenda apenas o seu uso se sintomas ou em contacto próximo com alguém sintomático. No entanto, o racional da utilização da máscara poderá ser mais importante para proteção comunitária, do que na prevenção individual, uma vez que indivíduos assintomáticos são potencialmente contagiosos.

Abstract

Since the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that caused coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the use of face masks has become ubiquitous in China and other Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan. Some provinces and municipalities in China have enforced compulsory face mask policies in public areas; however, China's national guideline has adopted a risk-based approach in offering recommendations for using face masks among health-care workers and the general public. We compared face mask use recommendations by different health authorities (panel). Despite the consistency in the recommendation that symptomatic individuals and those in health-care settings should use face masks, discrepancies were observed in the general public and community settings. For example, the US Surgeon General advised against buying masks for use by healthy people. One important reason to discourage widespread use of face masks is to preserve limited supplies for professional use in health-care settings. Universal face mask use in the community has also been discouraged with the argument that face masks provide no effective protection against coronavirus infection.