The World Health Organisation has advised countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic to make personal protective equipment such as face masks available for health workers before the general population.

WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, stated this as the UN specialized agency on global health marks World Health Day.

He said masks can help protect frontline workers in the management of COVID-19 but they are in short supply all over the world.

He, therefore, urged national governments to ration this important material for doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, amongst others, whom he described as “backbone of every health system.”

He said, “We understand that some countries have recommended or are considering the use of both medical and non-medical masks in the general population to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We know medical masks can help to protect health workers, but they’re in short supply globally.

“Medical masks must be prioritized for health workers on the front lines of the response.

“We are concerned that the mass use of medical masks by the general population could exacerbate the shortage of these specialized masks for the people who need them most.

“In some places, these shortages are putting health workers in real danger.

“In health care facilities, WHO continues to recommend the use of medical masks, respirators and other personal protective equipment for health workers.

“In the community, we recommend the use of medical masks by people who are sick and those who are caring for a sick person at home.

“We encourage countries that are considering the use of masks for the general population to study their effectiveness so we can all learn.

“Most importantly, masks should only ever be used as part of a comprehensive package of interventions.”