FACT CHECK: Did The WHO Say Face Masks No Longer Need To Be Worn?

Matthew Schoch | Contributor

A viral Facebook post claims the World Health Organization (WHO) stated in late January that wearing face masks is no longer necessary.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that the WHO stated that there is no longer a need to wear a mask outside of a hospital setting. The screen grab shows an article published by a website that has previously published misinformation.

Fact Check:

The image appears to show a screen grab of a Jan. 25 article published on Principia Scientific International, titled “WHO: You Do NOT Need To Wear A Mask,” that purports the WHO made a Jan. 22 announcement that “there is no scientific medical reason for any healthy person to wear a mask outside of a hospital.”

While the WHO originally stated in early April 2020 that masks should only be worn by health care workers, people displaying COVID-19 symptoms and caregivers of infected people, the organization updated its stance on mask guidelines in June 2020, stating the general public should wear facing coverings. Since then, the WHO has maintained the same health recommendations that people should wear a face covering in public to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Had the WHO recently changed its position on mask-wearing, major media outlets would have certainly reported on it, yet none have. Nor did the WHO make such a statement on its verified Twitter account. In fact, the organization recently held a press conference on Jan. 22 to discuss the importance and the effectiveness of wearing masks.

“Within our guidance itself it is also worth noting that the use of fabric 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,” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead for COVID-19, said during the press conference. “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.”

Principia Scientific International, the website which published the article making the inaccurate claim, has previously published misinformation, according to Science Feedback, which has assessed a few articles from Principia Scientific International as “inaccurate.” (RELATED: Viral Image Claims Wearing Face Masks Causes Cancer)

The WHO has continually advocated the importance of wearing face coverings since June, and its website is regularly updated with up-to-date information about preventative measures against the coronavirus. In addition to wearing face coverings, the WHO recommends practicing social distancing, frequently washing hands and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth, among other measures.

Matthew Schoch