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Gaceta Sanitaria

versión impresa ISSN 0213-9111


ROYO-BORDONADA, Miguel Ángel; GARCIA-LOPEZ, Fernando José; CORTES, Fátima  y  ANDRES ZARAGOZA, Gustavo. Face masks in the general healthy population. Scientific and ethical issues. Gac Sanit [online]. 2021, vol.35, n.6, pp.580-584.  Epub 04-Abr-2022. ISSN 0213-9111.

In most European countries, facemasks use is recommended or mandatory in enclosed spaces where physical distancing is not possible. In Spain, this measure was first extended to open public spaces and later made mandatory regardless of whether or not the interpersonal safety distance can be kept. At present, there is no evidence on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. The mandatory use of masks poses some ethical questions. Firstly, it entails a paternalistic action. Secondly, application of the principle of precaution becomes questionable when there is no clear benefit-risk relationship. Thirdly, compulsoriness can interfere with equity of public health actions. Fourthly, it can result in social stigma and discrimination against those who do not wear one, even though they well may have good reasons for doing so. Lastly, this measure may generate confusion in the population, along with an altered perception of the risk. The World Health Organization recommends its use in public places with a high potential risk of transmission and where other prevention measures, such as physical distancing, are not possible. Mandatory use of masks in public open spaces, regardless of the risk of transmission or of whether or not the interpersonal safety distance can be kept, is an intrusive measure that restricts individual freedoms, and would not appear to be justified on the basis of available scientific evidence. What we need are recommendations explaining where, when, how and what type of mask to wear.

Palabras clave : Face masks; Public health ethics; COVID-19; Disease transmission; Individual freedom; Stigma; Inequity; Spain.

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