Just in case anyone thought masks were going out of fashion... photo: Paulo Novais/ Lusa

Portugal’s health authority returns to ‘recommending’ use of masks in closed spaces

Recommendation is not enforceable

Portugal’s DGS national health authority has returned to recommending the wearing of masks in pharmacies, on public transport, at airports, sea terminals, underground and train networks, according to its guideline “Covid-19: Adequacy of public health measures“, now updated.

The change has been published on the health authority’s website which explains “the guideline has been updated according to “the current epidemiological situation and the best scientific evidence”.

For the time being at least, the government’s decree to end the compulsory use of masks in public passenger transport, taxis, TVDE (mobile ride hailing app taxis), aeroplanes and pharmacies remains in force. In other words, the DGS recommendation is not obligatory.

Says Lusa, the recommendation refers to “any person over 10 years of age whenever they are in closed environments, in crowds, namely when using public passenger transport, including air transport, as well as when transporting passengers in taxis or TVDE”.

The use of masks is also recommended on platforms and covered access to public transport, including airports, maritime terminals and metro and train networks, pharmacies and “in confirmed cases of Covid-19, in all circumstances, whenever [people] are away from their isolation site until the 10th day after the date of onset of symptoms or positive test”.

Again ‘for now’ the recommendation excludes schools, which have only just ‘returned’ from a three month summer break.

According to Lusa, “the DGS also advises the most vulnerable people, namely those with chronic diseases or states of immunosuppression at increased risk for severe Covid-19, to use a mask whenever they are in a “situation of increased risk of exposure”.

According to the guideline, the mandatory use of mask is maintained in health service establishments, in residential or care facilities or home support services for vulnerable people, elderly or disabled people, as well as in National Care Network units. This obligation extends to contacts with confirmed cases of Covid-19 for 14 days after the last exposure date.

The DGS website has no information on the multiple studies that have concluded there are very few benefits to mask wearing. In fact, in a number of situations, they can make things worse.

For links to these studies, see below:

https://www.cureus.com/articles/93826-correlation-between-mask-compliance-and-covid-19-outcomes-in-europe

https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-6817

https://centerforneurologyandspine.com/do-masks-work-see-the-review-of-over-150-studies-below/

The bottom line is that mask-wearing does not bring obvious positive results – and – as has now been universally recognised – contributes to other problems, not least the inability for young children to learn/ develop vital communication skills.

A working paper prepared for the Cato Institute has explained that masks can potentially accelerate disease spread. “For example, the auditory difficulties engendered by masks combined with their obfuscation of lip movements could cause wearers to talk more loudly (which yields greater numbers of droplets), lean to the side of plastic barriers while speaking, or approach more closely to hear or be heard, undermining the reductions in droplet movement that masks provide. This concern is particularly relevant for the aged or others who have impaired hearing and who may also be at higher risk of severe COVID19 infection.”

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com