Did the World Health Organization Say We Don’t Need to Wear Masks?

A viral Facebook post claims that the World Health Organization has said that “you do not need to wear a mask.” The post is a screenshot of a different post by John Sullivan, which appeared at a blog called Rainbow Warrior 2005, that says: “In a telling admission made on January 22, 2021, the World Health Organization now says there is no scientific medical reason for any healthy person to wear a mask outside of a hospital. Sadly, our corrupt politicians and mainstream media only relate the bad news.”

This is a false claim. The WHO made no such statement in a January 22 press conference.

In fact, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 technical lead for WHO, spoke about the importance of mask-wearing during the January 22 press conference. She mentioned that masks alone are not “enough,” while still emphasizing that they are an important part in protecting against COVID-19: 

[M]asks are one aspect of control, one aspect of reducing the spread of this virus and they can’t be used alone. We need to emphasize that because not one solution is enough; not masks alone, not physical distancing, not hand hygiene; you’ve heard us say that quite a lot.

Van Kerkhove then laid out what the WHO considers the most effective types of masks: “We recommend a three-layer mask and in our guidance materials we have recommendations on the specifications for filtration, for example, what the type of fabric should be for the inner layer, the middle layer and the outer layer. Not all fabric masks are the same and so they need to be produced and made so that they provide the right type of protection and source control.”

At no point in the press conference did any member of WHO say that “you do not need to wear a mask.”

Furthermore, WHO’s website, which was last updated on December 1 2020, has guidance for mask wearing, and states the following on its website: “[M]asks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives; the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19.”

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