Coronavirus: Wearing non-medical masks will help others but not you, Tam says

Canada’s top doctor is now recommending that people who don’t have symptoms of the novel coronavirus virus wear “non-medical” masks when outside their home as “an additional measure” to protect other people amid the pandemic.

There is emerging evidence that people infected with COVID-19 are able to transmit the virus before they develop symptoms, Dr. Theresa Tam said during a daily news conference on Monday.

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Similarly, there is also growing evidence that some people who have the virus but never develop symptoms are able to transmit the virus as well, Canada’s chief public health officer said.

“Wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you in situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as in public transit or maybe in the grocery store,” Tam said.

“A non-medical mask can reduce the chance of your respiratory droplets coming into contact with others or land on surfaces.”

Tam reiterated, however, that wearing a non-medical mask outside “has not been proven to protect the person wearing it” and she underscored that Canadians should not “back off” the public health measures put in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19, such as practising physical distancing.

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Tam said it’s still not known how big a role pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission play in “driving” the pandemic but officials know it is occurring.

As of April 6, there were 15,806 confirmed cases of the virus across the country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

To date, the deaths of 293 people have been linked to the virus in Canada, the agency says.

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