DGS now recommends public use of masks in supermarkets, pharmacies and transport for all citizens
The Minister of Health announced this morning, during a press conference aimed at epidemiological assessment, that after having analysed several opinions issued by Portuguese health entities, she decided that the use of surgical masks should be extended to the entire community, but only in situations where they need it, such as when frequenting enclosed spaces, namely supermarkets, pharmacies, public transport, etc.
Marta Temido warned that we are in a state of emergency, and the population should be maintain social distancing measures, but, if there is a need to frequent such spaces, they should wear a mask. In the recommendation published this afternoon on the official website of the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) it is explained that this decision was taken whilst taking into account a precautionary public health principle – that is, taking into account that an infected person can transmit the virus to another person two days before showing symptoms.
A week after extending the use of masks to informal caregivers, firefighters, morgue workers, delivery workers, the health authorities have decided to “extend the use of masks to all people who visit enclosed indoor spaces with multiple people, as a measure of additional protection alongside social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette”.
At this morning’s press conference, the minister stressed, once again, that wearing a mask has rules and that these must be known and respected by the entire population. The same is noted in the DGS report. “The use of masks by the population implies knowledge and mastery of the techniques of placement, use and removal, and that their use must in no way lead to the neglect of fundamental measures such as social distancing and hand hygiene”
Moreover, in the DGS document it is underlined that the use of masks by the general population is, above all, a gesture of altruism, “since whoever wears it is not just slightly more protected, but rather contributes to the protection of other people, when using it as an additional protective measure.”
Since the beginning of the epidemic in the country, this week being the 7th week since the first cases were registered, health authorities have been defending that the use of a mask can give a false idea of ??protection. In fact, this was one of the arguments used by the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Prevention and Control and Diseases in Europe, leading both major health entities to take the position that the use of a mask should not be generalized.
However, step by step, and as the disease progresses, this position has been changed, even by some EU countries. At this time, there are several countries that have already defined the use of a mask in the community as mandatory. In the world, there are locations in Asia, such as in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong-Kong and Singapore, in which this obligation seems to be yielding good results in the fight against COVID-19. As a further example, in Europe, the measures adopted by the Czech Republic are often given as an example, where the use of masks by the community was also one of the mandatory measures from the beginning of epidemic.