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Not Wearing Mask Is A “Big Mistake,” Chinese Expert Says

“The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks.”

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  • The Science Magazine publication shared a transcript of interview with Chinese biochemist and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention chief George Gao.
  • Gao answered questions about what other countries can learn from the way China dealt with the coronavirus.
  • Gao stressed wearing mask and social distancing are among the most essential strategies to control any infectious diseases.

Prominent Chinese scientist and chief of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention George Gao said the biggest mistake by the United States and Europe is that most people are still not wearing masks. According to Gao, this bad habit in the middle of an outbreak adds to the increasing figures of people getting infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Science Magazine recently released a transcript of an interview with Gao, discussing control measures that other countries should be doing to contain the spread of the virus. In the interview, he explained that people, whether they are sick or not, must wear masks to protect themselves from droplets coming from virus carriers.

“The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks. This virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact… You’ve got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth,” Gao, who earned a Ph.D in biochemistry at the University of Oxford, said.

He explained further that many people may have “asymptomatic or presymptomatic” infections, and that wearing mask is very important as it can “prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others.

However, U.S. and Europe continues to heed the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) about not wearing masks “unless they are sick with COVID-19 or are caring for someone who is sick”.

WHO has recently contradicted Gao’s statement, stressing that there is no specific proof that there is a “potential benefit” for everyone to wear masks.

“In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing mask properly or fitting it properly,” WHO health emergencies program executive director Dr. Mike Ryan said during a briefing in Geneva.

Ryan said another thing to consider is the issue of a possible massive global shortage of masks and other medical supplies, if countries would let all people wear protective masks. He lamented that frontliners are currently the most vulnerable from coronavirus and that the thought of them “not wearing masks is horrific”.

WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove seconded Ryan’s statement and said that countries should prioritize the use of masks for those individuals who need them the most.

Gao also explained that social distancing is another essential strategy for containing any infectious diseases, especially if it is a respiratory virus. He suggested five important steps of social distancing measures such as: 1) they should impose “non pharmaceutical strategies”, given that there still no specific “inhibitors or drugs” and vaccines available; 2) countries should isolate any confirmed cases, either they manifested mild or severe symptoms; 3) close contacts of patients who contracted the virus should also be in quarantine; 4) suspend all public gatherings; and 5) restrict movement, like imposing a lockdown, for instance.

He said however, that these steps are doable if a country has a “very strong leadership”–from local to national level.

“You need a supervisor and coordinator working with the public very closely. Supervisors need to know who the close contacts are, who the suspected cases are. The supervisors in the community must be very alert. They are key,” emphasized Gao.

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