Masks are not a substitute for other public health measures, WHO official says

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Photo courtesy: Achmad Ibrahim/AP

(CNN) - The World Health Organization supports the use of masks as part of a comprehensive strategy for COVID-19, but they cannot be used as a substitute for other public health measures, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19.

Van Kerkhove said WHO is hearing about changes in policies from many governments, who are applying mask use as part of their COVID-19 strategy, particularly in areas with active transmission or where physical distancing is not possible.

“We support the use of masks as one of the tools that can be put in place. However, it is not a substitute for other public health measure that also must be in place,” Van Kerkhove said at a WHO briefing in Geneva on Monday. “You cannot substitute the use of a mask for hand hygiene – for cleaning your hands. You cannot substitute the use of a mask for physical distancing. You cannot substitute the use of the mask for testing, finding cases, for contact tracing, for quarantining cases.”

Everything has to be done as a part of a comprehensive approach, Van Kerkhove said.

This story was first published on CNN.com, "Masks are not a substitute for other public health measures, WHO official says"