Fact Check: The World Health Organization (WHO) Did NOT Say You Do Not Need To Wear A Mask

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: The World Health Organization (WHO) Did NOT Say You Do Not Need To Wear A Mask Wear A Mask

Did the World Health Organization (WHO) say you do not need to wear a mask? No, that's not true: A WHO Global COVID-19 Press Conference on January 22, 2021 emphasized that the public needs to wear masks in order to protect themselves from the spread of coronavirus.

The claim appeared as an article published by Rainbow Warrior 2005 blog on January 25, 2021 titled "WHO now saying You do not need to Wear a Mask" (archived here) which opened:

In a telling admission made on January 22, 2021, the World Health Organization now say there is no scientific medical reason for any healthy person to wear a mask outside of a hospital.

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

WHO now saying You do not need to Wear a Mask

WHO: You Do NOT Need to Wear a Mask January 25, 2021 Written by John O'Sullivan In a telling admission made on January 22, 2021, the World Health Organization now say there is no scientific m...

The article posts a picture of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the real WHO Director-General. In the Rainbow Warrior article, no quotes are attributed to him nor to anyone else from the WHO in the article.

It also claims:

If you do not have any respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, or runny nose, you do not need to wear a medical mask. When used alone, masks can give you a false feeling of protection and can even be a source of infection when not used correctly."

That was not mentioned during the press conference and the panelists emphasized the opposite: that mask wearing, along with other precautionary methods, has helped decrease the spread of COVID-19 throughout the world.

The article links to a video of the January 22, 2021 WHO Global COVID-19 press conference, which can be found here.

A transcript from the press conference shows that speakers do address the importance of mask wearing beginning at approximately 44:30:

AN Okay, thanks. My question is about the new variant also and about the use of FFB2 masks that were made mandatory in Austria and parts of Germany on public transportation and in shops. According to those Governments regular masks are not safe enough against the new coronavirus so I'd like to know if there is any evidence that the regular fabric masks are less efficient at preventing the new variants and if so if WHO will revise its guidelines for use of masks against COVID-19 and if there's any concern about a shortage of that kind of mask or the fact that it's probably too expensive for poorer people. Thank you very much."

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead for COVID-19, responds that masks are essential and part of the greater effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

At 46 minutes, 9 seconds into the press conference, the transcript quotes her as follows:

We are seeing that the interventions that are in place are working but I should say with the use of masks, masks are one aspect of control, one aspect of reducing the spread of this virus and they can't be used alone. We need to emphasise that because not one solution is enough; not masks alone, not physical distancing, not hand hygiene; you've heard us say that quite a lot.
...It takes a comprehensive approach, it takes adherence to the measures that are in place to make sure that we follow through with the measures that are advised so that we can reduce transmission but again not one measure alone is enough...we recommend a three-layer mask and in our guidance materials we have recommendations on the specifications for filtration for example, what the type of fabric should be for the inner layer, the middle layer and the outer layer. Not all fabric masks are the same and so they need to be produced and made so that they provide the right type of protection and source control.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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