| 04.04,20. 07:46 PM |
Australians advised not to wear face masks amid coronavirus pandemic
Australia's public health authorities are "actively looking" at advising the general public to wear face masks, but maintain there is no need to wear them at this stage of the coronavirus outbreak.
Commonwealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said face masks were crucial protective equipment for health workers, but "not recommended for the Australian public".
Health authorities in the United States are recommending Americans use clean cloth or fabric to cover their faces while out in public.
Nearly 7,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US, with more than 270,000 confirmed cases of the highly infectious disease.
In Australia, 30 people have died and around 5,500 people have been confirmed as having caught the virus.
Professor Kelly pointed to limited supplies of masks, and potential misuse that could make them "more dangerous", as reasons for not advising the widespread use of them.
"At the moment, we do not think that is a good idea, partly because of that constraint of supply, but also the effectiveness in relation to people walking around with masks," he said at a press conference.
Professor Kelly said even if there was an unlimited supply of masks, he still would not advise everyone to use them.
"Using a mask incorrectly can actually make it more dangerous.
"For example, if you are not used to wearing a mask, it can become quite uncomfortable … it can become quite itchy underneath the mask."
Professor Kelly said if you touched a surface with the virus, then scratched an itch underneath the mask, you could "increase your risk, rather than decrease your risk" of becoming infected.
But he said the advice could change as the coronavirus outbreak progressed.
"We can continue to look at ways, and indeed we are actively looking at ways, of thinking about mask use into the future.
"If we got that point, then certainly, there would need to be a strong discussion about how to fit a mask properly and how to use a mask properly."