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COVID-19: IOM calls for widespread use of face coverings

28 April 2020

The Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) has outlined its position in support of widespread use of face coverings by everyone in the community during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Ewan Macdonald OBE from the University of Glasgow is cosignatory to this position.

Wearing face coverings in public, particularly in well-frequented locations such as shops and public transport is recommended in addition to current social distancing and hand-washing instructions. Face coverings can help reduce transmission of the virus in public, because people may unknowingly be infected and be spreading the virus in the air.

The wider public use of facemasks is currently a highly contentious issue where the science is being conflated with supply issues for respirators and masks used in healthcare. Health and social care, workers, are at higher risk from inhaling fine particles containing the virus and the public are at risk if an infected person coughs or sneezes directly at them within a 2m range.

IOM is a mission-led not-for-profit organisation. We are independent and impartial and seek to bring about an improved understanding and practical application of the factors affecting human health in the workplace and the wider environment. Established in 1969, we have been at the forefront of scientific research to understand and mitigate a range of occupational and environmental health risks from coal-dust to asbestos to carbon nanotubes to air pollution. In addition to our Edinburgh headquarters, we have two further UK locations and a business located in Singapore.

IOM believes that everyone outside their homes should wear non-medical face coverings such as bicycle masks, snoods and similar coverings. This will reduce the chance of infection from coughs and sneezes, both directly between people, and indirectly from droplet contamination of surfaces. This advice is particularly important in busy public spaces such as supermarkets, shopping centres and on public transport, including taxis.
To read the full statement and guidance view it here.