3 Apr 2020

Coronavirus: Health Ministry reviewing mask guidelines

From Morning Report, 7:09 am on 3 April 2020

The Health Ministry is looking at a possible shift in US official guidelines, to recommend that the ordinary public should all wear face masks during the pandemic.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reviewing new data that shows the highly infectious nature of Covid-19 means regular facemask use may help cut transmission.

It shows many people show no symptoms for two days, during which time they spread the virus around.

The Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says the experience in parts of Asia of routine face mask use appears to back this up.

He says some of the 40 million masks being imported by the ministry could be diverted to the public.

An expat New Zealander in Shanghai Brendon Ritchie says we should follow what China has done in his city by providing 10 surgical masks a week to each household.

US media are reporting there is NO medical consensus on whether widespread use of masks would make a significant difference to avoiding infection.

Hong Kong University's head of epidemiology Professor Ben Cowling says there is some benefit from wearing masks - but he told Phil Pennington, it's not that simple.