Will it soon be mandatory to wear a mask as soon as you leave your home? While the authorities have so far advocated that the use of masks should be reserved for caregivers, symptomatic and frail people, the discourse is changing significantly.
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“We must be able to produce masks for people who are not caregivers, who are second line people, who will be in contact with the public, or even tomorrow to offer everyone to wear protection, thus indicated, Saturday April 4, Jérôme Salomon, number two of the Ministry of Health. We are currently discussing this with the scientific council, virology experts, health agencies, we are asking them to reassess the doctrine. It’s constantly evolving. “
Protect yourself from asymptomatic infected people
Why this evolution? “So far, apart from caregivers, the doctrine has been that only patients with symptoms should wear a mask to protect others, explains the infectiologist Anne-Claude Crémieux, member of the Covid group of the Academy of Medicine. But for the past few weeks, what has become clear in the scientific literature is that at least 50% of those infected can be asymptomatic or presymptomatic. Therefore, if we want to prevent the virus from circulating, everyone must wear masks. “
Several studies also reinforce the idea that we need to protect ourselves more systematically: one, which suggests that the virus could, under certain ultra-fine conditions, remain in the air for three hours, and another, which indicates that it could be transmitted only by speaking.
However, recognizes Jean-François Eliaou, doctor and LREM deputy from Hérault “We must not hide behind our little finger, so far, we have not used surgical masks on a large scale because we are in short supply, with tensions on national production as in access to stocks worldwide. “
In fact, in Asia, where the majority of masks are produced, the population has quickly resorted to it, while in the West, the authorities have little encouraged this type of protection. But a harsh remark by Gao Fu, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, eased awareness. “The big mistake in the United States and Europe, in my opinion, he said on March 27 in the magazine Science is that people don’t wear masks. “
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Many Western countries now seem to be converting to this recommendation. The mask is already required in the Czech Republic, Slovenia while in Austria, it is distributed in supermarkets. In Italian Lombardy, respiratory tract coverage has been compulsory since April 5. In France, the National Academy of Medicine translated this development by recommending, in a notice published on April 4, that “The wearing of a” general public “mask, also known as an” alternative “mask, is made compulsory for the necessary outings during the confinement period” as well as at the time of deconfinement.
However, some experts warn, as the World Health Organization continued to do last week, against the “False security” what the masks would represent. “The first thing to do to prevent the spread of the virus is to respect the barrier measures, in particular the safety distance of at least one meter, explains Pierre Parneix, doctor of public health and hospital hygiene at the Bordeaux University Hospital. However, since these measures are clearly not fully observed, the use of masks may be useful. But it still has to be well worn. If it is not combined with very good hand hygiene, it can have an over-contaminating effect. “
Therefore, what to recommend to the general public? The ministry of health indicates to have ordered 2 billion surgical masks, but these will remain intended for the medical personnel. So, adds the ministry, ” notWe also authorized the production of alternative masks on March 31st », by drawing up a list of around twenty authorized companies.
In any case, many did not wait for the government to start producing “homemade” masks. A multitude of initiatives are flourishing on social networks. A number follow the recommendations of the Grenoble or Lille teaching hospitals, or the very comprehensive Afnor specifications. Others offer protections with bandanas, paper towels, see … bras and underpants for men.
“The manufacturing method, which must include several layers, and the material, which must be sufficiently filtering to act as a barrier but not too much to allow breathing, are important. It is therefore best to get masks from validated producers ”, recalls Pierre Parneix. “Of course surgical masks remain the most effective but, in their absence, believes in turn Anne-Claude Crémieux, cloth masks have been shown to be better than nothing. “