World Health Organization (WHO) officials repeated recommendations that face masks only be worn by those with the coronavirus, or those caring for them, during a press conference in Geneva on Monday.

"We don't generally recommend the wearing of masks in public by otherwise well individuals," said World Health Organisation (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Michael Ryan.

Ryan continued, saying "There also is the issue that we have a massive global shortage," adding that "the people most at risk from this virus are frontline health workers who are exposed to the virus every second of every day. The thought of them not having masks is horrific, so we have to be very careful with supply."

"It's important that our frontline workers who we recommend standard and droplet precautions, have adequate use of PPE and so that we make sure that we prioritise the use of masks for those who need it most," echoed World Health Organization (WHO) Technical Maria Van Kerkhove.

On Monday Austria became the first country to require supermarket customers to wear face masks while shopping, with the items, which will not be medical grade, set to be handed out to shoppers in front of stores.

Ryan also emphasised that there is no proven treatment or drug for the virus.

"So that we're clear, there is no proven effective therapeutic or drug against COVID-19," explained Ryan. However, he did go on to say that "there are a number of drugs that have shown promise, either in previous treatment of coronaviruses, like MERS or SARS, in the fight against HIV, or in other situations."

"And there is some preliminary data from non-randomised studies, observational studies that indicate that some drugs and some drug cocktails may have an impact," added Ryan.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus also spoke the conference to highlight how other medical issues continue to be concerns during the outbreak.

"Even though we're in the midst of a crisis, essential health services must continue. Babies are still being born, vaccines must still be delivered, and people still need life-saving treatment for a range of other diseases," said the WHO chief.


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Associated Press 11 May 2020 11:44 CEST

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