Vienna, Apr 1 (efe-epa).- The debate about wearing masks during the coronavirus outbreak has been raging in Europe with several countries making it mandatory but the World Health Organization remaining skeptical.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia are the only two countries on the continent that have made it compulsory to wear a face covering when in public.
Austria has made it obligatory in supermarkets and Slovenia has ordered a mask to be worn in any closed public space.
In all four countries a scarf or other article of clothing that covers the nose and mouth has been accepted as a substitute.
Other countries have taken an opposing view, with Hungarian authorities advising against masks for healthy people on the grounds that they can generate a false sense of security and there are not enough for the entire population.
The Bulgarian government has been the best example of the uncertainty around this issue, in just a few hours it went from banning their use with fines of 2,500 euros to backing down because “there is no consensus in society”.
The WHO has advised that only those who are sick or anyone looking after them should wear masks.
There are also different types of masks, some cover the nose and mouth, like those worn by surgeons, and can limit the risk of infecting others but do not protect the wearer from infection.
Others have filtration systems and can block the droplets that an infected person generates when they cough, sneeze or speak.
The WHO has advised that Covid-19 is not airborne as these droplets are too heavy to float and quickly fall to the ground.
Infection can only result from breathing in the virus if a person is within one meter or less of someone who is infected.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said: “The use of a mask does not in itself guarantee protection if it is not combined with other measures.
“The problem is that people who wear a mask may have a false sense of security and forget other essential gestures, such as washing their hands.”
The Czech government made it obligatory to cover the mouth and nose in public places on March 18, the first country in Europe to do so.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis advised United States President Donald Trump this week to do the same in America.
“Mr President, try tackling virus the Czech way,” he tweeted on Sunday.
“Wearing a simple cloth mask, decreases the spread of the virus by 80%.
“Czech Republic has made it OBLIGATORY for its citizens to wear a mask in the public.”
Czech authorities have reported more than 3,300 infections and around 30 deaths, out of a population of 10.5 million.
In Slovakia, which has reported 400 cases, a recent ceremony swearing in a new government took place with all its members wearing masks and gloves to set an example to the country’s population of 5.4 million.