Canada's top doctor says non-medical masks can prevent further spread of coronavirus

Apr 6 2020, 11:26 am

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, says Canadians can wear non-medical masks while out in public “as an additional measure” to protect others against the spread of COVID-19.

In a press conference Monday morning, Tam said that as collective scientific knowledge of COVID-19 continues to grow, “it is clear that transmission of the virus is happening more often than previously recognized from infected people right before they develop symptoms.” This is referred to as “pre-symptomatic transmission,” explained Tam.

“There is also evidence that some infected people who never develop symptoms are also able to transmit the virus. This is called asymptomatic transmission,” she continued.

Tam said that while it is still unclear as to how big a role pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission play in “driving” the pandemic, “the special advisory committee on COVID-19 has come to a consensus that 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 at the grocery store, a non-medical mask can reduce the chance of your respiratory droplets coming into contact with others or land on surfaces.”

Tam clarified that “wearing a non-medical mask in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it.”

Rather, “it is an additional way that you can protect others.”

Wearing a non-medical mask also does not mean individuals can disregard public health measures already in place to slow the spread of the virus.

“You must continue to practice physical distancing and good hygiene, like frequent hand washing, and regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces.”

Tam went on to say it is extremely important to keep the supply of medical masks “where it is needed” most.

“Healthcare workers need medical masks,” she said. “We are still in a very critical stage of Canada’s COVID-19 epidemic, and this is no time to relax our preventive measures.”