No mandatory masks – but government says the are times to consider wearing them

The definitive advice is that for now, there is no reason to make it compulsory for people to cover their nose and mouth in public places.

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File picture of woman wearing anti-pollution / anti-germ face mask / Credit: iStock

After several months without a decision, and conflicting advice from officially-appointed panels of experts, the Finnish Government has finally decided they won’t make it mandatory to wear a face mask in public.

Ministers met to discuss the subject on Wednesday, and repeated the message of good hand hygiene and physical distancing, but stopped short of making it a requirement to use a nose and mouth covering in public.

“The Government will not issue a general recommendation on the use of face masks, but considers that masks can be used to protect other people in places and situations where it is not possible to avoid close contact” says a statement released on Wednesday evening.

“Such situations may be encountered, for example, in public transport during rush hour where distances cannot be observed and where people stay for longer periods of time” the statement says.

Last week a study produced by a team of experts for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health found no strong scientific evidence that face masks protect against the spread of coronavirus.

The experts evaluated five different scientific studies about the effectiveness of face masks – which cover nose and mouth – and four of those studies found that face masks did not affect the spread of the virus.

However this week another study drawn up by a different panel of government-appointed experts did recommend the use of face masks in public places.

The Government now says, definitively, that masks “do not replace the primary preventive measures” for reducing the chance of catching coronavirus, which include avoiding close contact with other people, washing hands, and practicing good hygiene when coughing or sneezing.

“Face masks do not protect from virus infections, but they may prevent people carrying the virus from infecting others. A proper use of a face mask requires a proper technique for putting on and taking off the mask. This should be done with clean hands and the mask should be changed sufficiently often. If the mask is not used correctly, it may even increase the risk of coronavirus infection” the Government’s statement concludes.