Healthcare staff given incorrect instructions on face mask use
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Healthcare staff given incorrect instructions on face mask use

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Health care staff in Belgium were given instructions on the use of face masks which clashed with safety recommendations from top international health authorities.

Official guidelines from federal public health institute Sciensano published in March said that health professionals could wear a face mask for up to eight hours and wear it around the neck.

The guidelines were altered weeks later but, according to De Morgen, health care professionals were not notified of the change.

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In March, Sciensano said that the masks could be “worn around the neck, but never in the pocket,” De Morgen reports, in guidelines issued not only to hospital workers but to staff in nursing homes and other health care professionals working through the pandemic.

But in an email seen by the outlet, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Europe director Hans Kluge says that wearing a mask around the neck and putting it back on was risky because it required manipulating the mask, the outside of which could be infected.

“While it is theoretically safe, after hand-washing, to place a used medical mask under the chin or around the neck, it is not possible to put the used medical mask back on (…) without touching the used mask and the face,” he wrote. 

He said that the mishandling of masks may have led to infections among health care workers, according to De Morgen.

While Belgium’s Superior Health Council said that the recommendation was removed on 16 April, the outlet reports that regional authorities were not notified of the change.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times