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13 May, 2020 18:09

Swedish PM says face masks for Covid-19 offer ‘false sense of security’ to wearers

Swedish PM says face masks for Covid-19 offer ‘false sense of security’ to wearers

The Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Lofven has advised against wearing face masks to ward off Covid-19, as they may lead people to assume they are safe from the virus when there is still a risk of transmission.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Lofven said donning masks could lead the wearer to neglect social distancing guidelines and become complacent about safety precautions.

"There is a risk of a false sense of security, that you feel you can't be infected if you have a face mask," he said. He advised those displaying even very mild symptoms to stay at home, stay socially distant, and to continue regularly washing their hands.

Also on rt.com Sweden passes 3,000 coronavirus deaths as Scandinavian nation becomes battleground for lockdown debate

Lofven’s advice is in contrast to that of medical experts elsewhere, who have said masks should be worn not to protect the wearer, but to prevent them from passing the virus onto others if they are unknowingly asymptomatic.

In newly updated guidance this week in the UK, for instance, people are advised to wear homemade face-coverings in public “to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others.”

Sweden’s Public Health Agency, however, says that while masks are worn by healthcare staff in close contact with patients, they are “not needed in the community.”

The country has been the only one in Europe to oppose going into lockdown and shutting schools and businesses as the virus spread throughout society, preferring to adopt a ‘herd immunity’ strategy and issue general advice on hand-washing and social distancing while remaining open for business. 

Also on rt.com New study says herd immunity is a myth and countries relying on it, including Sweden, chose the wrong strategy

As of May 13, Sweden has reported 3,460 deaths from Covid-19 and a total of 27,909 confirmed cases of the virus. While the death toll is higher than in other Scandinavian countries, it is still significantly lower than many of the countries which imposed the strictest lockdowns.

Sweden's care homes for the elderly have been particularly hard-hit, with state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell admitting that it has been a struggle to shield vulnerable older people. 

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